Recent genetic and pharmacological evidence indicates that low neuropeptide Y (NPY) levels in brain regions involved with neurobiological responses to ethanol promote increased ethanol consumption. Because of their opposing actions, it has been suggested that NPY and corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) exert a reciprocal regulation on drug self-administration. It has been widely reported that inbred C57BL/6 mice consume significantly higher amounts of ethanol than do DBA/2 mice. Therefore, we used immunohistochemical techniques to determine if basal NPY and/or CRF levels differed in predicted directions between C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice.
Ethanol-naive C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice were deeply anesthetized with sodium pentobarbital (100 mg/kg) and perfused transcardially with 0.1 mM of phosphate-buffered saline followed by 4% paraformaldehyde in buffered saline. Brains were collected and postfixed for 4 hr at 4°C and then were cut into 35-μm sections. Tissues containing the nucleus accumbens (NAc), hypothalamus, and amygdala were processed for NPY or CRF immunoreactivity using immunofluorescent or DAB techniques. Immunoreactivity was quantified from digital images using Image J software.
The C57BL/6J mice showed reduced NPY expression in the NAc shell, the basolateral amygdala, and the central nucleus of the amygdala when compared with DBA/2J mice. However, these strains did not differ in CRF expression in any of the brain regions analyzed.
These data suggest that low NPY levels in the amygdala and/or the shell of the NAc, which are not compensated for by similar changes in CRF levels, may contribute to the high ethanol consumption characteristic of C57BL/6J mice.