• dopamine;
  • ethanol;
  • microdialysis;
  • neurosteroids;
  • prefrontal cortex


The effect of endogenous 3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one (3α,5α-TH PROG) on the modulation of mesocortical dopamine extracellular concentration by ethanol was investigated by microdialysis in rats. Intraperitoneal injection of progesterone (5 mg/kg, once a day for 5 days) increased the cortical content of 3α,5α-TH PROG and potentiated the biphasic effect of acute intraperitoneal administration of ethanol on dopamine content. A dose of ethanol (0.25 g/kg) that was ineffective in naïve rats induced a 55% increase in dopamine extracellular concentration in rats pretreated with progesterone. This increase was similar to that induced by a higher dose (0.5 g/kg) of ethanol in naïve rats. Administration of ethanol at 0.5 g/kg to progesterone-pretreated rats inhibited dopamine content by an extent similar to that observed with an even higher dose (1 g/kg) in naïve rats. The administration of the 5α-reductase inhibitor finasteride (25 mg/kg, subcutaneous), together with progesterone, prevented the effects of the latter, both on the cortical concentration of 3α,5α-TH PROG and on the modulation by ethanol of dopamine content. These data suggest that 3α,5α-TH PROG contributes to the action of ethanol on the mesocortical dopaminergic system. They also suggest that physiological fluctuations in the brain concentrations of neuroactive steroids associated with the oestrous cycle, menopause, pregnancy and stress may alter the response of mesocortical dopaminergic neurons to ethanol.