Background: Chronic ethanol consumption is known to induce adaptive changes in the hippocampal glutamatergic transmission and alter NMDA receptor binding and subunit expression. Metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors have been shown to function as modulators of neuronal excitability and can fine tune glutamatergic transmission. This study was aimed to determine whether chronic ethanol treatment could change the messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of mGlu receptors in the hippocampus.
Methods: Male Sprague Dawley® rats were fed a Lieber-DeCarli liquid diet with 5% (w/v) ethanol or isocaloric amount of maltose for 2 months. Quantitative in situ hybridization was carried out using coronal brain sections through the hippocampus.
Results: The results revealed decreases in mRNA expression of several mGlu receptors in different subregions of the hippocampus. In the dentate gyrus, mGlu3 and mGlu5 receptor mRNA levels were significantly lower in the ethanol-treated rats than in the control rats. In the CA3 region, the mRNA expression of mGlu1, mGlu5, and mGlu7 receptors showed substantial decreases after ethanol exposure. The mGlu7 receptor mRNA levels were also declined in the CA1 region and the polymorph layer of the dentate gyrus. No changes were found in mRNA expression of mGlu2, mGlu4, and mGlu8 receptors.
Conclusions: Considering the involvement of hippocampal mGlu receptors in learning and memory processes as well as in neurotoxicity and seizure production, the reduced expression of these receptors might contribute to ethanol withdrawal-induced seizures and also may play a role in cognitive deficits and brain damage caused by long-term ethanol consumption.