Author(s): Ploj K, Roman E, Nylander I
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Abstract Accumulating evidence indicates that an animal's response to a drug can be profoundly affected by early environmental influences. The brain opioid and dopamine systems may play a critical role in these effects, since various types of stress and drugs of abuse promote alterations in these brain systems. To study this further, we investigated long-term behavioural and neurochemical effects of repeated maternal separation in male Wistar rats. The pups were separated in litters daily from their dams for either 15 min (MS15) or 360 min (MS360) from postnatal days 1-21. Analysis of the kappa- and delta-opioid, dopamine D(1)- and D(2)-like receptors with receptor autoradiography revealed long-term neurochemical changes in several brain areas. D(1)-like receptor binding was affected in the hippocampus and D(2)-like receptor binding in the ventral tegmental area and the periaqueductal gray, whereas minor changes were seen in opioid receptor density after maternal separation. At 10-13 weeks of age, MS15 rats had a lower ethanol intake whereas, the MS360 rats consumed more 8\% ethanol solution compared with MS15 and animal facility-reared rats. Ethanol consumption altered kappa-receptor density in several brain areas, for example the amygdala, substantia nigra and the periaqueductal gray. D(1)-like receptor binding was affected in distinct brain areas, including the nucleus accumbens, where also delta-opioid receptor density was changed in addition to the frontal cortex. Ethanol-induced changes were observed in D(2)-like receptor density in the ventral tegmental area in MS360, and in the ventral tegmental area and frontal-parietal cortex in animal facility-reared rats. These findings show that early experiences can induce long-lasting changes in especially brain dopamine receptor density and that ethanol consumption induces alterations in opioid and dopamine receptor density in distinct brain areas. It is also suggested that changes induced by repeated MS15 may provide protection against high voluntary ethanol intake.
This article was published in Neuroscience
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy