Zahr, N. M., Mayer, D., Rohlfing, T., Hsu, O., Vinco, S., Orduna, J., . . . Pfefferbaum, A. (2014). Rat strain differences in brain structure and neurochemistry in response to binge alcohol. Psychopharmacology, 231(2), 429-445.
Ventricular enlargement is a robust phenotype of the chronically dependent alcoholic human brain, yet the mechanism of ventriculomegaly is unestablished. Heterogeneous stock Wistar rats administered binge EtOH (3 g/kg intragastrically every 8 h for 4 days to average blood alcohol levels (BALs) of 250 mg/dL) demonstrate profound but reversible ventricular enlargement and changes in brain metabolites (e.g., N-acetylaspartate (NAA) and choline-containing compounds (Cho)).
Here, alcohol-preferring (P) and alcohol-nonpreferring (NP) rats systematically bred from heterogeneous stock Wistar rats for differential alcohol drinking behavior were compared with Wistar rats to determine whether genetic divergence and consequent morphological and neurochemical variation affect the brain’s response to binge EtOH treatment.
The three rat lines were dosed equivalently and approached similar BALs. Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy evaluated the effects of binge EtOH on brain.
As observed in Wistar rats, P and NP rats showed decreases in NAA. Neither P nor NP rats, however, responded to EtOH intoxication with ventricular expansion or increases in Cho levels as previously noted in Wistar rats. Increases in ventricular volume correlated with increases in Cho in Wistar rats.
The latter finding suggests that ventricular volume expansion is related to adaptive changes in brain cell membranes in response to binge EtOH. That P and NP rats responded differently to EtOHargues for intrinsic differences in their brain cell membrane composition. Further, differential metabolite responses to EtOH administration by rat strain implicate selective genetic variation as underlying heterogeneous effects of chronic alcoholism in the human condition.