• alcohol;
  • mesoaccumbens reward pathway;
  • microdialysis;
  • nucleus accumbens shell;
  • serotonin2C receptor


Dopamine and serotonin (5-HT) in the nucleus accumbens (ACC) and ventral tegmental area of the mesoaccumbens reward pathways have been implicated in the mechanisms underlying development of alcohol dependence. We used a C57BL/6J mouse model with increased voluntary alcohol-drinking behavior by exposing the mice to alcohol vapor for 20 consecutive days. In the alcohol-exposed mice, the expression of 5-HT2C receptor mRNA increased in the ACC, caudate nucleus and putamen, dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), hippocampus and lateral hypothalamus, while the protein level of 5-HT2C receptor significantly increased in the ACC. The expression of 5-HT7 receptor mRNA increased in the ACC and DRN. Contents of 5-HT decreased in the ACC shell (ACCS) and DRN of the alcohol-exposed mice. The basal extracellular releases of dopamine (DA) and 5-HT in the ACCS increased more in the alcohol-exposed mice than in alcohol-naïve mice. The magnitude of the alcohol-induced ACCS DA and 5-HT release in the alcohol-exposed mice was increased compared with the control mice. Intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration or local injection into ACCS of the 5-HT2C receptor antagonist, SB-242084, suppressed voluntary alcohol-drinking behavior in the alcohol-exposed mice. But the i.p. administration of the 5-HT7 receptor antagonist, SB-258719, did not have significant effects on alcohol-drinking behavior in the alcohol-exposed mice. The effects of the 5-HT2C receptor antagonist were not observed in the air-exposed control mice. These results suggest that adaptations of the 5-HT system, especially the upregulation of 5-HT2C receptors in the ACCS, are involved in the development of enhanced voluntary alcohol-drinking behavior.