Behavioral sensitization to ethanol is modulated by environmental conditions, but is not associated with cross-sensitization to allopregnanolone or pentobarbital in DBA/2J mice

P. J. Meyer, A. A. Palmer, C. S. Mckinnon, Tamara Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Rationale: The ability of ethanol to facilitate GABAA receptor-mediated transmission may result in GABAA receptor alterations during repeated ethanol administration, and lead to dynamic behavioral changes, including sensitization to the locomotor stimulant effect of ethanol. Since alterations in GABAA receptors are likely to alter sensitivity to GABAergic drugs such as 3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one (allopregnanolone) and pentobarbital, we determined whether enhanced sensitivity to ethanol was associated with enhanced sensitivity (cross-sensitization) to these drugs. Two procedures that produced differences in the magnitude of expression of ethanol-induced locomotor sensitization were used. After habituation to testing procedures for 2 days, female DBA/2J mice were injected with ethanol or saline for 12 days. On the following day, locomotion was recorded after a challenge injection of ethanol (2 g/kg), allopregnanolone (10 or 17 mg/kg), or pentobarbital (10 or 20 mg/kg). Due to evidence that exposure to the test chambers influenced sensitization, in some experiments, mice were exposed to the test apparatus on the day prior to challenge. Exposure to the test apparatus prior to drug challenge attenuated the expression of ethanol sensitization, compared with mice without this pre-exposure. Cross-sensitization was not observed to either allopregnanolone or pentobarbital under any condition; however, some groups of repeated ethanol-treated mice displayed tolerance to the initial stimulant effects of allopregnanolone and pentobarbital. These studies indicate that behavioral sensitization to ethanol is not associated with cross-sensitization to pentobarbital or allopregnanolone, and that the expression of ethanol sensitization is influenced by the relative novelty of the test chamber. In addition, these results do not support a mechanism in which alterations in the neurosteroid or barbiturate modulatory sites of the GABAA receptor are responsible for the expression of sensitization to the locomotor stimulant effects of ethanol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-273
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005



  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturate
  • GABA
  • Locomotion
  • Neuroactive steroids
  • Neurosteroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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