Genetic components of ethanol responses

John C. Crabbe, Daniel J. Feller, Erik S. Terdal, Catherine D. Merrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A powerful technique for determining the role of a particular neurotransmitter in mediating a response to ethanol (EtOH) is the analysis of selectively bred lines of animals. Lines selected for sensitivity and resistance to an EtOH effect differ principally in gene frequencies for genes affecting the selected response. Hence, other differences between the lines are likely due to pleiotropic actions of those genes. We discuss behavioral pharmacological experiments in two sets of selected lines. Withdrawal Seizure-Prone (WSP) and -Resistant(WSR) mouse lines were selected for severe and minimal handling-induced convulsions (HIC), respectively, after withdrawal from chronic EtOH inhalation. The HIC is also elevated after acute administration of low doses of convulsant drugs. WSP mice were found to be more sensitive than WSR mice to many such drugs. There was no apparent specificity of such effects to any particular neurotransmitter system. Thus, genetic determination of a behavioral response to EtOH in this case cannot be traced to the influence of a single neurotransmitter system. COLD and HOT mice were selectively bred to show severe and mild hypothermia, respectively, after acute EtOH administration. COLD mice are also more sensitive to a number of other alcohols, barbiturates, and other general central nervous system depressants. When tested for sensitivity to a number of drugs with specific effects on neurotransmitter systems, COLD and HOT mice did not differ in sensitivity to drugs affecting dopaminergic, α-adrenergic, or nicotinic acetylcholinergic systems, COLD mice were more sensitive, however, to opioid and serotonergic drugs. Thus, analysis of these selected lines was successful in identifying particular neurotransmitters which may be important in EtOH-induced hypothermia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-248
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • COLD/HOT mice
  • Convulsions
  • Ethanol
  • Hypothermia
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Proconvulsant treatments
  • Selectively bred lines
  • WSP/WSR mice
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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