Identification of genes influencing complex traits is hampered by genetic heterogeneity, the modest effect size of many alleles, and the likely involvement of rare and uncommon alleles. Etiologic complexity can be simplified in model organisms. By genomic sequencing, linkage analysis, and functional validation, we identified that genetic variation of Grm2, which encodes metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 (mGluR2), alters alcohol preference in animal models. Selectively bred alcohol-preferring (P) rats are homozygous for a Grm2 stop codon (Grm2 *407) that leads to largely uncompensated loss of mGluR2. mGluR2 receptor expression was absent, synaptic glutamate transmission was impaired, and expression of genes involved in synaptic function was altered. Grm2 *407 was linked to increased alcohol consumption and preference in F2 rats generated by intercrossing inbred P and nonpreferring rats. Pharmacologic blockade of mGluR2 escalated alcohol self-administration in Wistar rats, the parental strain of P and nonpreferring rats. The causal role of mGluR2 in altered alcohol preference was further supported by elevated alcohol consumption in Grm2 (-/-) mice. Together, these data point to mGluR2 as an origin of alcohol preference and a potential therapeutic target.
We describe a protocol for screening compulsive drug users among cocaine self-administering rats, the most frequently used animal model in addiction research. Rats are first trained on several alternating days to self-administer either cocaine (i.v.) or saccharin-sweetened water (by mouth)--a potent, albeit nonessential, nondrug reward. Then rats are allowed to choose between the two rewards over several days until the preference stabilizes. Most rats choose to stop using cocaine and pursue the alternative reward. Only a minority of Wistar strain rats (generally 15%) persist in taking the drug, regardless of the severity of past cocaine use and even when made hungry and offered the possibility to relieve their physiological need. Persistence of cocaine use in the face of a high-stakes choice is a core defining feature of compulsion. This choice-based screening method for compulsive drug users is easy to implement, has several important applications, and compares well with other methods in the field.
When facing a choice between cocaine and a potent, albeit inessential, non-drug alternative (i.e. water sweetened with saccharin), most cocaine self-administering rats abstain from cocaine in favor of the non-drug pursuit, regardless of the dose available and even after extended drug use. Only a minority continues to take the drug despite the opportunity of making a different choice and increasing stakes. This pattern of individual variation could suggest that the majority of rats are resilient to addiction, taking cocaine by default of other options. Only a minority would be vulnerable to addiction. This study tested the hypothesis that rats choose to refrain from cocaine self-administration because cocaine would be conflictual, having both rewarding and anxiogenic properties. Contrary to this hypothesis, however, we report here that diazepam-a broad-spectrum benzodiazepine anxiolytic-did not decrease, but instead, further increased cocaine abstinence. Interestingly, although diazepam decreased locomotion, rats adapted to this effect by spending more time near the lever associated with the preferred reward, a behavior that minimized the need for locomotion at the moment of choice. When responding for cocaine or saccharin was analyzed separately, we found that diazepam decreased responding for cocaine without affecting responding for saccharin. Finally, the abstinence-promoting effects of diazepam were also induced in cocaine-preferring rats treated chronically with diazepam. Overall, this study demonstrates that abstinence from cocaine cannot be explained away by the anxiogenic effects of cocaine, thereby reinforcing the notion of resilience to addiction. It also supports the use of benzodiazepines in the treatment of cocaine addiction.
Assessing the relative value of cocaine and how it changes with chronic drug use represents a long-standing goal in addiction research. Surprisingly, recent experiments in rats--by far the most frequently used animal model in this field--suggest that the value of cocaine is lower than previously thought.
Cell fate and proliferation are tightly linked to the regulation of the mitochondrial energy metabolism. Hence, mitochondrial biogenesis regulation, a complex process that requires a tight coordination in the expression of the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes, has a major impact on cell fate and is of high importance. Here, we studied the molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis through a nutrient-sensing pathway, the Ras-cAMP pathway. Activation of this pathway induces a decrease in the cellular phosphate potential that alleviates the redox pressure on the mitochondrial respiratory chain. One of the cellular consequences of this modulation of cellular phosphate potential is an increase in the cellular glutathione redox state. The redox state of the glutathione disulfide-glutathione couple is a well known important indicator of the cellular redox environment, which is itself tightly linked to mitochondrial activity, mitochondria being the main cellular producer of reactive oxygen species. The master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis in yeast (i.e. the transcriptional co-activator Hap4p) is positively regulated by the cellular glutathione redox state. Using a strain that is unable to modulate its glutathione redox state (?glr1), we pinpoint a positive feedback loop between this redox state and the control of mitochondrial biogenesis. This is the first time that control of mitochondrial biogenesis through glutathione redox state has been shown.
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