Activation of Mesolimbocortical Dopamine Pathways

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Komara, Nicole; Latourette, Monique
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Activation of the mesolimbocortical dopamine pathway is implicated in reward and addiction behaviors. Specifically, alcohol increases dopamine in the mesolimbocortical dopamine pathway. In regards to sex differences, alcohol has a greater effect on the female brain compared to the male brain. While this pathway is often studied under chronic ethanol (EtOH) treatment conditions, we hypothesized that changes in dopamine production or transmission are altered following acute EtOH intoxication, and that there are sex differences in these effects. To test this hypothesis, male and female wild-type Swiss Webster mice were treated with 2g/kg ethanol (20% EtOH in saline) or saline via i.p. injection and were euthanized 2 hours post-injection. Brain tissue was fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde and sectioned into 35 micron thick sections that were processed for immunohistochemical staining for the dopamine-synthesizing enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and nucleus accumbens (NAc). We expected ethanol treated female mice to exhibit an increase of TH immunoreactivity in the VTA and NAc. Ongoing quantitative analysis suggests that female saline-treated mice have increased TH immunoreactivity in the VTA and NAc compared to EtOH-treated. This experiment has further implications on the reward pathway and how this pathway is affected by alcohol addiction.