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Historically, the roots of alcoholism have been linked to either environment or heredity. However, the interaction between these factors is still largely unexplored. The evidence supports a link between alcohol consumption and the endogenous opioid system. We here studied the opioid genes expression in male and female Wistar rats derived from a short-term breeding program which selected -- at adolescence -- for high (ADHI line) or low (ADLO line) ethanol drinking. Specifically, in this work we analyzed central opioid gene expression in the rats of the second filial generation (S2-ADLO and S2-ADHI). Selective downregulation of pronociceptin (Pnoc) and its receptor (Oprl1) mRNA levels were observed in the prefrontal cortex of male S2-ADHI rats when compared to S2-ADLO, and for Oprl1 also in the nucleus accumbens. An increase in gene expression was instead observed for pro-opiomelanocortin (Pomc) in the nucleus accumbens of S2-ADHI males when compared to S2-ADLO, as well as for mu opioid receptor (Oprm1) but in females. The differences in mRNA levels may be due to the different alcohol consumption between the two groups of rats or may represent pre-existing differences between them. Moreover, we show a sex-specific modulation of the expression of these genes, thus pointing out the importance of sex on ethanol responses. The results might lead to more specific and effective pharmacological treatments for alcoholism. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Fabio Bellia, Macarena Soledad Fernández, María Carolina Fabio, Mariangela Pucci, Ricardo Marcos Pautassi, Claudio D'Addario. Selective alterations in endogenous opioid system genes expression in rats selected for high ethanol intake during adolescence. Drug and alcohol dependence. 2020 Jul 01;212:108025

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PMID: 32442753

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