REVIEW: Phenotypic characterization of genetically selected Sardinian alcohol-preferring (sP) and -non-preferring (sNP) rats


Giancarlo Colombo, C.N.R. Institute of Neuroscience, Viale Diaz, 182, I-09126 Cagliari (CA), Italy. E-mail:


Sardinian alcohol-preferring (sP) and -non-preferring (sNP) rats are one of the pairs of rat lines selectively bred for high and low alcohol preference and consumption, respectively, under the homecage, continuous two-bottle choice regimen. sP rats meet most of the fundamental criteria for an animal model of alcoholism, in that they voluntarily consume sufficient amounts of alcohol to achieve significant blood alcohol levels and produce psychopharmacological effects, including anxiolysis and motor stimulation. sP rats are also willing to ‘work’ (such as lever-pressing) for alcohol. Chronic alcohol drinking in sP rats results in the development of tolerance to a given effect of alcohol (specifically, motor incoordination) and relapse-like drinking (the alcohol deprivation effect). Conversely, sNP rats avoid alcohol virtually completely; their avoidance for alcohol being resistant even to an environmental manipulation such as long-term exposure to alcohol plus sucrose. sP and sNP rats have been characterized for different phenotypes, possibly associated to their different alcohol preference and consumption. In comparison with sNP rats, alcohol-naive sP rats displayed (1) more anxiety-related behaviors; (2) higher initial sensitivity to the locomotor stimulating and sedative/hypnotic effects of alcohol; and (3) lower sensitivity to the aversive effects of alcohol. The present paper reviews the data collected to date on alcohol drinking behavior and other alcohol-related behaviors in sP and sNP rats. The behavioral profile of sP rats is also compared with that of other lines of selectively bred alcohol-preferring rats and the heterogeneity resulting from this comparison is discussed in terms of different animal models for the different forms of alcoholism.