Ethanol self-administration in serotonin transporter knockout mice: unconstrained demand and elasticity


  • R. J. Lamb,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry
    2. Department of Pharmacology
    • Corresponding author: R. J. Lamb, Department of Psychiatry, UTHSCSA, MC7792, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA. E-mail:

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  • L. C. Daws

    1. Department of Pharmacology
    2. Department of Physiology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, USA
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Low serotonin function is associated with alcoholism, leading to speculation that increasing serotonin function could decrease ethanol consumption. Mice with one or two deletions of the serotonin transporter (SERT) gene have increased extracellular serotonin. To examine the relationship between SERT genotype and motivation for alcohol, we compared ethanol self-administration in mice with zero (knockout, KO), one (HET) or two copies (WT) of the SERT gene. All three genotypes learned to self-administer ethanol. The SSRI, fluvoxamine, decreased responding for ethanol in the HET and WT, but not the KO mice. When tested under a progressive ratio schedule, KO mice had lower breakpoints than HET or WT. As work requirements were increased across sessions, behavioral economic analysis of ethanol self-administration indicated that the decreased breakpoint in KO as compared to HET or WT mice was a result of lower levels of unconstrained demand, rather than differences in elasticity, i.e. the proportional decreases in ethanol earned with increasing work requirements were similar across genotypes. The difference in unconstrained demand was unlikely to result from motor or general motivational factors, as both WT and KO mice responded at high levels for a 50% condensed milk solution. As elasticity is hypothesized to measure essential value, these results indicate that KO value ethanol similarly to WT or HET mice despite having lower break points for ethanol.