The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is part of the limbic-hypothalamic system important for behavioral responses to stress, and glutamate transmission within this region has been implicated in the neurobiology of alcoholism. Herein, we used a combination of immunoblotting, neuropharmacological and transgenic procedures to investigate the role for metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGlu5) signaling within the BNST in excessive drinking. We discovered that mGlu5 signaling in the BNST is linked to excessive alcohol consumption in a manner distinct from behavioral or neuropharmacological endophenotypes that have been previously implicated as triggers for heavy drinking. Our studies demonstrate that, in male mice, a history of chronic binge alcohol-drinking elevates BNST levels of the mGlu5-scaffolding protein Homer2 and activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in an adaptive response to limit alcohol consumption. Male and female transgenic mice expressing a point mutation of mGlu5 that cannot be phosphorylated by ERK exhibit excessive alcohol-drinking, despite greater behavioral signs of alcohol intoxication and reduced anxiety, and are insensitive to local manipulations of signaling in the BNST. These transgenic mice also show selective insensitivity to alcohol-aversion and increased novelty-seeking, which may be relevant to excessive drinking. Further, the insensitivity to alcohol-aversion exhibited by male mice can be mimicked by the local inhibition of ERK signaling within the BNST. Our findings elucidate a novel mGluR5-linked signaling state within BNST that plays a central and unanticipated role in excessive alcohol consumption.
- Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis
- Extracellular signal-regulated kinase
- Homer protein
- Mglu5 receptor
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