Involvement of protein kinase C and Src tyrosine kinase in acute tolerance to ethanol inhibition of spinal NMDA-induced pressor responses in rats


Chih-Chia Lai, Department of Pharmacology, Tzu Chi University, 701, Section 3, Zhongyang Road, Hualien, Taiwan, 970. E-mail:


Background and purpose:  The present study was carried out to examine the role of protein kinases in the development of acute tolerance to the effects of ethanol on spinal N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated pressor responses during prolonged ethanol exposure.

Experimental approach:  Blood pressure responses induced by intrathecal injection of NMDA were recorded. The levels of several phosphorylated residues on NMDA receptor NR1 (GluN1) (NR1) and NMDA receptor NR2B (GluN2B) (NR2B) subunits were determined by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis.

Key results:  Ethanol inhibited spinal NMDA-induced pressor responses at 10 min, but the inhibition was significantly reduced at 40 min following continuous infusion. This effect was dose-dependently blocked by chelerythrine [a protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, 1–1000 pmol] or PP2 (a Src family tyrosine kinase inhibitor, 1–100 pmol) administered intrathecally 10 min following ethanol infusion. A significant increase in the immunoreactivity of phosphoserine 896 of NR1 subunits (pNR1-Ser896) and phosphotyrosine 1336 of NR2B subunits (pNR2B-Tyr1336) was found in neurons of intermediolateral cell column during the development of tolerance. Levels of pNR1-Ser896 and pNR2B-Tyr1336 were also significantly increased in lateral horn regions of the spinal cord slices incubated with ethanol for 40 min in vitro. The increases in pNR1-Ser896 and pNR2B-Tyr1336 levels were inhibited by post-treatment with chelerythrine and PP2, respectively, both in the in vivo and in vitro studies.

Conclusions and implications:  The results suggest that activation of PKC and Src tyrosine kinase during prolonged ethanol exposure leading to increases in the levels of pNR1-Ser896 and pNR2B-Tyr1336 may contribute to acute tolerance to inhibition by ethanol of NMDA receptor function.