Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) signaling in the mesocorticolimbic system is known to modulate anxiety-like behavior and alcohol consumption, behaviors that also have been associated with the hyper-glutamatergic state of the lateral habenula (LHb) neurons in rats. However, the role of CRF signaling in the LHb on the glutamate transmission, anxiety-like behaviors and alcohol consumption is unknown. Here, we used male rats that had been consuming alcohol for three months to address this gap in the literature. First, using electrophysiological techniques, we evaluated CRF's effects on the glutamate transmission in LHb neurons in brain slices. CRF facilitated glutamate transmission. The facilitation was greater in neurons of alcohol-withdrawing rats than in those of naïve rats. The facilitation was mimicked by the activation of CRF receptor 1 (CRF1R) but attenuated by the activation of CRF receptor 2 (CRF2R). This facilitation was mediated by upregulating CRF1R-protein kinase A signaling. Conversely, protein kinase C blockade attenuated CRF's facilitation in neurons of naïve rats but promoted it in neurons of alcohol-withdrawing rats. Next, using site-direct pharmacology, we evaluated the role of CRF signaling in the LHb on anxiety-like behaviors and alcohol consumption. Intra-LHb inhibition of CRF1R or activation of CRF2R ameliorated the anxiety-like behaviors in alcohol-withdrawing rats and reduced their alcohol intake when drinking was resumed. These observations provide the first direct behavioral pharmacological and cellular evidence that CRF signaling in the LHb modulates glutamate transmission, anxiety-like behaviors and alcohol consumption, and that adaptation occurs in CRF signaling in the LHb after chronic alcohol consumption.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- CRF receptors
- Ethanol withdrawal
- Lateral habenula