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Keywords:

  • BDNF;
  • conditioned place preference;
  • lentiviral vector;
  • microRNA;
  • miR124a;
  • siRNA

Abstract

Alcohol abuse is a major health, economic and social concern in modern societies, but the exact molecular mechanisms underlying ethanol addiction remain elusive. Recent findings show that small non-coding microRNA (miRNA) signaling contributes to complex behavioral disorders including drug addiction. However, the role of miRNAs in ethanol-induced conditioned-place preference (CPP) and voluntary alcohol consumption has not yet been directly addressed. Here, we assessed the expression profile of miR124a in the dorsal striatum of rats upon ethanol intake. The results show that miR124a was downregulated in the dorso-lateral striatum (DLS) following alcohol drinking. Then, we identified brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as a direct target of miR124a. In fact, BDNF mRNA was upregulated following ethanol drinking. We used lentiviral vector (LV) gene transfer technology to further address the role of miR124a and its direct target BDNF in ethanol-induced CPP and alcohol consumption. Results reveal that stereotaxic injection of LV-miR124a in the DLS enhances ethanol-induced CPP as well as voluntary alcohol consumption in a two-bottle choice drinking paradigm. Moreover, miR124a-silencer (LV-siR124a) as well as LV-BDNF infusion in the DLS attenuates ethanol-induced CPP as well as voluntary alcohol consumption. Importantly, LV-miR124a, LV-siR124a and LV-BDNF have no effect on saccharin and quinine intake. Our findings indicate that striatal miR124a and BDNF signaling have crucial roles in alcohol consumption and ethanol conditioned reward.