The Edinger-Westphal nucleus (EW) is a brain region that has recently been implicated as an important novel neural target for ethanol. Thus, the EW is the only brain region consistently showing elevated c-Fos expression following both voluntary and involuntary ethanol administration. Ethanol-induced c-Fos expression in the EW has been shown to occur in urocortin I-positive neurons. Moreover, previous reports using several genetic models have demonstrated that differences in the EW urocortin I system are correlated with ethanol-mediated behaviours such as ethanol-induced hypothermia and ethanol consumption. The aim of this study was to confirm these relationships using a more direct strategy. Thus, ethanol responses were measured following electrolytic lesions of the EW in male C57BL/6J mice. Both EW-lesioned and sham-operated animals were tested for several ethanol sensitivity measures and ethanol consumption in a two-bottle choice test. The results show that lesions of the EW significantly disrupted ethanol-induced hypothermia, while having no effect on pupillary dilation, locomotor activity or ethanol-induced sedation. In addition, EW-lesioned animals showed significantly lower ethanol preference and total ethanol dose consumed in the two-bottle choice test. EW-lesioned animals also consumed less sucrose than sham-operated animals, but did not have altered preferences for sucrose or quinine in a two-bottle choice test. These data support previously observed genetic correlations between EW urocortin I expression and both ethanol-induced hypothermia and ethanol consumption. Taken together, the findings suggest that the EW may function as a sensor for ethanol, which can influence ethanol consumption and preference.
- Urocortin I
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