Differential activation of limbic circuitry associated with chronic ethanol withdrawal in DBA/2J and C57BL/6J mice

Gang Chen, Matthew T. Reilly, Laura B. Kozell, Robert Hitzemann, Kari J. Buck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Although no animal model exactly duplicates clinically defined alcoholism, models for specific factors, such as the withdrawal syndrome, are useful for identifying potential neural determinants of liability in humans. The well-documented difference in withdrawal severity following chronic ethanol exposure, between the DBA/2J and C57BL/6J mouse strains, provides an excellent starting point for dissecting the neural circuitry affecting predisposition to physical dependence on ethanol. To induce physical dependence, we used a paradigm in which mice were continuously exposed to ethanol vapor for 72 h. Ethanol-exposed and air-exposed (control) mice received daily injections of pyrazole hydrochloride, an alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitor, to stabilize blood ethanol levels. Ethanol-dependent and air-exposed mice were killed 7 h after removal from the inhalation chambers. This time point corresponds to the time of peak ethanol withdrawal severity. The brains were processed to assess neural activation associated with ethanol withdrawal indexed by c-Fos immunostaining. Ethanol-withdrawn DBA/2J mice showed significantly (P < .05) greater neural activation than ethanol-withdrawn C57BL/6J mice in the dentate gyrus, hippocampus CA3, lateral septum, basolateral and central nuclei of the amygdala, and prelimbic cortex. Taken together with results using an acute model, our data suggest that progression from acute ethanol withdrawal to the more severe withdrawal associated with physical dependence following chronic ethanol exposure involves recruitment of neurons in the hippocampal formation, amygdala, and prelimbic cortex. To our knowledge, these are the first studies to use c-Fos to identify the brain regions and neurocircuitry that distinguish between chronic and acute ethanol withdrawal severity using informative animal models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-420
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Amygdala
  • Ethanol
  • Hippocampus
  • Limbic
  • Withdrawal
  • c-Fos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Differential activation of limbic circuitry associated with chronic ethanol withdrawal in DBA/2J and C57BL/6J mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this