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  • Prenatal ethanol exposure alters met-enkephalin expression in brain regions related with reinforcement: possible mechanism for ethanol consumption in offspring.

Prenatal ethanol exposure alters met-enkephalin expression in brain regions related with reinforcement: possible mechanism for ethanol consumption in offspring.

Behavioural brain research (2014-08-26)
P Abate, K Hernández-Fonseca, A C Reyes-Guzmán, I G Barbosa-Luna, M Méndez
RESUMO

The endogenous opioid system is involved in ethanol reinforcement. Ethanol-induced changes in opioidergic transmission have been extensively studied in adult organisms. However, the impact of ethanol exposure at low or moderate doses during early ontogeny has been barely explored. We investigated the effect of prenatal ethanol exposure on alcohol intake and Methionine-enkephalin (Met-enk) content in rat offspring. Met-enk content was assessed in the ventral tegmental area [VTA], nucleus accumbens [NAcc], prefrontal cortex [PFC], substantia nigra [SN], caudate-putamen [CP], amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus. Pregnant rats were treated with ethanol (2g/kg) or water during GDs 17-20. At PDs 14 and 15, preweanlings were evaluated in an intake test (5% and 10% ethanol, or water). Met-enk content in brain regions of infants prenatally exposed to ethanol was quantitated by radioimmunoassay. Ethanol consumption was facilitated by prenatal experience with the drug, particularly in females. Met-enk content in mesocorticolimbic regions - PFC and NAcc - was increased as a consequence of prenatal exposure to ethanol. Conversely, Met-enk levels in the VTA were reduced by prenatal ethanol manipulation. Prenatal ethanol also increased peptide levels in the medial-posterior zone of the CP, and strongly augmented Met-enk content in the hippocampus and hypothalamus. These findings show that prenatal ethanol exposure stimulates consumption of the drug in infant rats, and induces selective changes in Met-enk levels in regions of the mesocorticolimbic and nigrostriatal systems, the hypothalamus and hippocampus. Our results support the role of mesocorticolimbic enkephalins in ethanol reinforcement in offspring, as has been reported in adults.

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