The prevalence of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) has steadily increased in the United States over the last 30 years. Alcohol acts on multiple receptor systems including the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), which are known to mediate alcohol consumption and reward. We previously reported that the preclinical drug sazetidine-A, a nAChR agonist and desensitizer, reduces alcohol consumption without affecting nicotine consumption in C57BL/6J mice. Here, we found that sazetidine-A enhances the expression of alcohol aversion without affecting the expression or acquisition of conditioned alcohol reward in C57BL/6J mice. Microinjection of sazetidine-A into the ventral midbrain targeting the ventral tegmental area (VTA) reduced binge alcohol consumption, implicating this region in mediating the effects of sazetidine-A. Furthermore, the sazetidine-A-induced reduction in alcohol consumption was mediated by non-α4 containing nAChRs, as sazetidine-A reduced binge alcohol consumption in both α4 knock-out and wild-type mice. Finally, we found that in mice pretreated with sazetidine-A, alcohol induced Fos transcript in Th-, but not Gad2-expressing neurons in the VTA as measured by increased Fos transcript expression. In summary, we find that sazetidine-A enhances the expression of alcohol aversion, which may underlie the reduction in alcohol consumption induced by sazetidine-A. Elucidating the identity of non-α4 nAChRs in alcohol aversion mechanisms will provide a better understanding the complex role of nAChRs in alcohol addiction and potentially reveal novel drug targets to treat AUDs.
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We would like to thank Dr. Julia Lemos and Jeff Stolley for their assistance with the RNA Scope assay and Dr. Jerry Stitzel for providing the α4 nAChR subunit knock‐out breeder pairs. We also acknowledge Jamie Maertens and Cecilia Huffman for their technical assistance in this study. This work was supported by NIH NIDA grant T32DA007234 (JCT), and NIAAA grants F31AA026782 (JKM) and R01AA026598 (AML).
© 2020 Society for the Study of Addiction
- nicotinic acetylcholine receptor