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Ghrelin receptor (GHS-R1A) antagonism suppresses both operant alcohol self-administration and high alcohol consumption in rats


Jörgen A. Engel, Section for Pharmacology, The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden. E-mail: and Selena Bartlett, Preclinical Development Group, Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, University of California San Francisco, 5858 Horton Street, Suite 200, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA. E-mail:


The mechanisms involved in alcohol use disorders are complex. It has been shown that ghrelin is an important signal for the control of body weight homeostasis, preferably by interacting with hypothalamic circuits, as well as for drug reward by activating the mesolimbic dopamine system. The ghrelin receptor (GHS-R1A) has been shown to be required for alcohol-induced reward. Additionally, ghrelin increases and GHR-R1A antagonists reduce moderate alcohol consumption in mice, and a single nucleotide polymorphism in the GHS-R1A gene has been associated with high alcohol consumption in humans. However, the role of central ghrelin signaling in high alcohol consumption is not known. Therefore, the role of GHS-R1A in operant self-administration of alcohol in rats as well as for high alcohol consumption in Long-Evans rats and in alcohol preferring [Alko alcohol (AA)] rats was studied here. In the present study, the GHS-R1A antagonist, JMV2959, was found to reduce the operant self-administration of alcohol in rats and to decrease high alcohol intake in Long-Evans rats as well as in AA rats. These results suggest that the ghrelin receptor signaling system, specifically GHS-R1A, is required for operant self-administration of alcohol and for high alcohol intake in rats. Therefore, the GHS-R1A may be a therapeutic target for treatment of addictive behaviors, such as alcohol dependence.