Long-lasting adaptations of the NR2B-containing NMDA receptors in the dorsomedial striatum play a crucial role in alcohol consumption and relapse.
Additional Document Info
A growing number of studies suggest that the development of compulsive drug seeking and taking depends on dorsostriatal mechanisms. We previously observed that ex vivo acute exposure of the dorsal striatum to, and withdrawal from, alcohol induces long-term facilitation (LTF) of the activity of NR2B-containing NMDA receptors (NR2B-NMDARs) in a mechanism that requires the Src family protein tyrosine kinase (PTK), Fyn (Wang et al., 2007). In the present study, we first compared alcohol's actions in rat dorsomedial (DMS) and the dorsolateral (DLS) subregions of the striatum, which differ in their anatomical connectivity and function. We found that alcohol-mediated induction of LTF of NR2B-NMDAR activity is centered in the DMS. Next, we tested whether in vivo exposure of rats to alcohol leads to long-term adaptations of the NMDAR system in the DMS. We observed that repeated daily administration of alcohol results in a long-lasting increase in the activity of the NR2B-NMDARs in the DMS. The same procedure leads to a prolonged activation of Fyn, increased NR2B phosphorylation, and membrane localization of the subunit. Importantly, similar electrophysiological and biochemical modifications were observed in the DMS of rats that consumed large quantities of alcohol. Finally, we show that inhibition of NR2B-NMDARs or Src family PTKs in the DMS, but not in the DLS, significantly decreases operant self-administration of alcohol and reduces alcohol-priming-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking. Our results suggest that the upregulation of NR2B-NMDAR activity within the DMS by alcohol contributes to the maladaptive synaptic changes that lead to excessive alcohol intake and relapse.