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Alcohol-seeking behavior is associated with increased glutamate transmission in basolateral amygdala and nucleus accumbens as measured by glutamate-oxidase-coated biosensors

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Relapse is one of the most problematic aspects in the treatment of alcoholism and is often triggered by alcohol-associated environmental cues. Evidence indicates that glutamate neurotransmission plays a critical role in cue-induced relapse-like behavior, as inhibition of glutamate neurotransmission can prevent reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior. However, few studies have examined specific changes in extracellular glutamate levels in discrete brain regions produced by exposure to alcohol-associated cues. The purpose of this study was to use glutamate oxidase (GluOx)-coated biosensors to monitor changes in extracellular glutamate in specific brain regions during cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior. Male Wistar rats were implanted with indwelling jugular vein catheters and intracerebral guide cannula aimed at the basolateral amygdala (BLA) or nucleus accumbens (NAc) core, and then trained to self-administer alcohol intravenously. A separate group of animals were trained to self-administer food pellets. Each reinforcer was accompanied by the presentation of a light/tone stimulus. Following stabilization of responding for alcohol or food reinforcement, and subsequent extinction training, animals were implanted with pre-calibrated biosensors and then underwent a 1-hour cue-induced reinstatement testing period. As determined by GluOx-coated biosensors, extracellular levels of glutamate were increased in the BLA and NAc core during cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior. The cumulative change in extracellular glutamate in both regions was significantly greater for cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior versus that of food-seeking behavior. These results indicate that increases in glutamate transmission in the BLA and NAc core may be a neurochemical substrate of cue-evoked alcohol-seeking behavior.

Keywords: Alcohol; biosensor; cues; glutamate; reinstatement; relapse

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1369-1600.2010.00262.x

Affiliations: 1: Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, USA 2: Department of Psychology, The College of Charleston, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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