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Keywords:

  • POMC;
  • HPA Axis;
  • Tolerance;
  • CRF1 Receptor;
  • Alcohol

Background:

Endogenous corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), its pituitary CRF1 receptor, and proopiomelanocortin (POMC) may be involved in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) responses to alcohol.

Methods:

Alcohol (1.5 g/kg) or water was administered intragastrically to male Fischer rats after the “binge'’pattern regimen, that is, three times daily at 1 hr intervals at the beginning of the light cycle. The levels of CRF, CRF1 receptor, and POMC mRNAs in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis were measured after acute (1 day) or chronic (14 days) binge pattern alcohol administration. Plasma levels of ACTH and corticosterone were measured to examine time-dependent alterations of HPA responses.

Results:

Plasma ACTH and corticosterone levels were elevated dramatically after 1 day of acute binge pattern alcohol administration. After 14 days of chronic alcohol, however, no elevation in plasma ACTH levels and an attenuated elevation in plasma corticosterone levels were found. CRF mRNA levels in the hypothalamus were not altered after either acute or chronic alcohol administration. CRF1 receptor mRNA levels in the anterior pituitary were decreased significantly after acute administration, with no change after chronic alcohol administration. POMC mRNA levels in the anterior pituitary were not altered by either acute or chronic alcohol administration. In the hypothalamus, POMC mRNA levels were decreased significantly after acute but not chronic binge alcohol administration.

Conclusions:

These results suggest that (1) rats exposed to chronic binge alcohol develop tolerance in HPA activity, as shown by no elevation of ACTH and an attenuated corticosterone response to chronic alcohol after initial dramatic elevations by acute alcohol administration; (2) a concurrent acute decrease in CRF1 receptor mRNA levels in the anterior pituitary is associated with increased HPA activity, and (3) alterations of POMC gene expression in the hypothalamic region may have implications for a molecular understanding of the neuroendocrine response to alcohol.