Sexually divergent changes in select brain proteins and neurosteroid levels after a history of ethanol drinking and intermittent PTSD-like stress exposure in adult C57BL/6J mice

Leslie L. Devaud, Mehrdad Alavi, Jeremiah P. Jensen, Melinda L. Helms, Michelle A. Nipper, Deborah A. Finn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Human studies reported that the number of past-year stressors was positively related to current drinking patterns, including binge drinking. In animal models, exposure to predator odor stress (PS), considered a model of traumatic stress, consistently increased ethanol intake. Recently, we reported that repeated PS significantly increased ethanol intake and had a synergistic interaction with prior binge drinking (binge group) in male but not in female C57BL/6J mice, when compared to mice without prior binge exposure (control group). The current studies utilized plasma and dissected prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampal tissue from these animals and from age-matched naïve mice (naïve group). Western blots assessed relative protein levels of P450scc (an enzyme involved in the first step of steroidogenesis), of GABAA receptor α2 and α4 subunits, and of two proteins involved in synaptic plasticity – ARC (activity-regulated cytoskeletal protein) and synaptophysin. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry simultaneously quantified 10 neurosteroid levels in plasma. A history of ethanol drinking and PS exposure produced brain regional and sex differences in the changes in proteins examined as well as in the pattern of neurosteroid levels versus (vs.) values in naïve mice. For instance, P450scc levels were significantly increased only in binge and control female PFC and hippocampus vs. naïve mice. Some neurosteroid levels were significantly altered by binge treatment in both males and females, whereas others were only significantly altered in males. These sexually divergent changes in neurosteroid and protein levels add to evidence for sex differences in the neurochemical systems influenced by traumatic stress and a history of ethanol drinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Mar 2020



  • GABA receptors
  • Hippocampus
  • Neuroactive steroids
  • Predator odor
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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