Anticonvulsive effects of κ-Opioid receptor modulation in an animal model of ethanol withdrawal


*A. S. Beadles-Bohling, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health and Science University Research Service, R&D-49, 3710 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA. E-mail:


Although the neurochemical mechanisms contributing to alcohol withdrawal seizures are poorly understood, withdrawal seizures probably reflect neuronal hyperexcitability resulting from adaptation to chronic alcohol. Altered κ-Opioid receptor (KOP-R) signaling has been observed in multiple seizure types; however, a role for this system in ethanol withdrawal seizures has not been systematically characterized. We hypothesized that pharmacological manipulations of the KOP-R would alter withdrawal in mice selectively bred for differences in ethanol withdrawal severity. Withdrawal Seizure-Prone (WSP) and Withdrawal Seizure-Resistant (WSR) mice were made physically dependent using chronic ethanol vapor inhalation, and the effects of the KOP-R antagonist nor-binaltorphimine or agonist U-50,488H on withdrawal severity were examined. Pretreatment with nor-binaltorphimine significantly increased handling-induced convulsion (HIC) severity in withdrawing WSR mice, with no observable effects in withdrawing WSP mice. In contrast, U-50,488H significantly decreased HIC severity in WSP mice, with no effects in WSR mice. During extended withdrawal (i.e. hours 12+), a rebound hyperexcitability was observed in WSP mice given agonist. Thus, administration of a KOP-R antagonist increased withdrawal severity in mice normally resistant to withdrawal seizures, while a KOP-R agonist reduced convulsion severity in animals susceptible to withdrawal seizures. These observations are consistent with differences in the KOP-R system observed in these lines at the molecular level, and suggest the KOP-R system may be a promising therapeutic target for management of ethanol withdrawal seizures. Finally, these findings underscore the importance of determining the potential for rebound increases in withdrawal severity during later withdrawal episodes.