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Keywords:

  • Alcohol Consumption;
  • Rodent Model;
  • Motor Ataxia;
  • Tolerance;
  • Selected Line

Background

Crossed high-alcohol-preferring (cHAP) mice were selectively bred from a cross of the HAP1 × HAP2 replicate lines and demonstrate blood ethanol concentrations (BECs) during free-choice drinking reminiscent of those observed in alcohol-dependent humans. In this report, we investigated the relationship between free-choice drinking, intoxication, tolerance, and sensitization in cHAP mice. We hypothesized that initially mice would become ataxic after drinking alcohol, but that increased drinking over days would be accompanied by increasing tolerance to the ataxic effects of ethanol (EtOH).

Methods

Male and female cHAP mice had free-choice access to 10% EtOH and water (E), while Water mice (W) had access to water alone. In experiment 1, the first drinking experience was monitored during the dark portion of the cycle. Once E mice reached an average intake rate of ≥1.5 g/kg/h, they, along with W mice, were tested for footslips on a balance beam, and BECs were assessed. In experiments 2, 3, and 4, after varying durations of free-choice 10% EtOH access (0, 3, 14, or 21 days), mice were challenged with 20% EtOH and tested for number of footslips on a balance beam or locomotor stimulant response. Blood was sampled for BEC determination.

Results

We found that cHAP mice rapidly acquire alcohol intakes that lead to ataxia. Over time, cHAP mice developed behavioral tolerance to the ataxic effects of alcohol, paralleled by escalating alcohol consumption. However, locomotor sensitization did not develop following 14 days of free-choice EtOH access.

Conclusions

Overall, we observed increases in free-choice drinking with extended alcohol access paralleled by increases in functional tolerance, but not locomotor sensitization. These data support our hypothesis that escalating free-choice drinking over days in cHAP mice is driven by tolerance to alcohol's behavioral effects. These data are the first to demonstrate that escalating free-choice consumption is accompanied by increasing alcohol tolerance. In addition to buttressing the hypothesized importance of tolerance in drinking, our findings suggest that cHAP mice may be a unique, translational resource for studying tolerance as a contributor to and consequence of chronic, excessive EtOH consumption.