Involvement of ventral tegmental area ionotropic glutamate receptors in the expression of ethanol-induced conditioned place preference

Melanie M. Pina, Christopher L. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a well-established neural substrate of reward-related processes. Activity within this structure is increased by the primary and conditioned rewarding effects of abused drugs and its engagement is heavily reliant on excitatory input from structures upstream. In the case of drug seeking, it is thought that exposure to drug-associated cues engages glutamatergic VTA afferents that signal directly to dopamine cells, thereby triggering this behavior. It is unclear, however, whether glutamate input to VTA is directly involved in ethanol-associated cue seeking. Here, the role of intra-VTA ionotropic glutamate receptor (iGluR) signaling in ethanol-cue seeking was evaluated in DBA/2J mice using an ethanol conditioned place preference (CPP) procedure. Intra-VTA iGluRs α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPAR)/kainate and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDAR) were blocked during ethanol CPP expression by co-infusion of antagonist drugs 6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (DNQX; AMPA/kainate) and D-(−)-2-Amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (AP5; NMDA). Compared to aCSF, bilateral infusion of low (1 DNQX + 100 AP5 ng/side) and high (5 DNQX + 500 AP5 ng/side) doses of the AMPAR and NMDAR antagonist cocktail into VTA blocked ethanol CPP expression. This effect was site specific, as DNQX/AP5 infusion proximal to VTA did not significantly impact CPP expression. An increase in activity was found at the high but not low dose of DNQX/AP5. These findings demonstrate that activation of iGluRs within the VTA is necessary for ethanol-associated cue seeking, as measured by CPP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Oct 15 2016


  • AMPA
  • CPP
  • DBA/2J
  • Glutamate
  • NMDA
  • VTA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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