• Ethanol, Quantitative Trait Loci;
  • γ-Aminobutyric Acid;
  • Loss of Righting Reflex;
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Current

Background: Ethanol enhances γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor-mediated responses in the brain, and this enhancement is greater in a mouse line behaviorally more sensitive to ethanol (long sleep) than in a line (short sleep) behaviorally less ethanol sensitive (assayed by loss of righting; sleep time). Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of inbred long sleep (ILS) and inbred short sleep (ISS) phenotypes revealed four chromosomal regions (Lore1, Lore2, Lore4, and Lore5) that together account for approximately 50% of ethanol-induced sleep-time variance. Congenic strains were generated, each of which is homozygous for one of four ISS Lore QTLs on the ILS background. These congenic mouse strains are ideally suited for asking which QTL regions might correlate with other phenotypes that differ between ILS and ISS mice. Here we used the congenics to investigate altered GABAA responses to ethanol.

Methods: Evoked GABAA receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) were measured by whole-cell voltage-clamp recording procedures in CA1 pyramidal neurons in hippocampal brain slices.

Results: GABAA IPSC responses in hippocampal brain slices from ILS mice were significantly enhanced by 80 mM ethanol, whereas those from ISS mice were not affected. ILS.Lore2S and ILS.Lore5S congenic strains were significantly enhanced by 80 mM ethanol, similar to the background (control) ILS mice. However, ethanol had no significant effect on GABAA responses in ILS.Lore1S and ILS.Lore4S congenic mice, similar to the ISS mice, thus reflecting the influence of ISS alleles on the ILS phenotype.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that alleles located in the Lore1 and Lore4 QTL regions confer ethanol sensitivity of GABAA receptor-mediated IPSCs. Thus, for these QTLs, GABAA IPSCs may represent an endophenotype of sedative/hypnotic sensitivity to ethanol. Although the Lore2 and Lore5 QTL regions have a significant effect on sleep time, they do not play a significant role in the differential ethanol enhancement of GABAA IPSCs between ILS and ISS mice.