Differential effects of acute versus chronic stress on ethanol sensitivity: Evidence for interactions on both behavioral and neuroimmune outcomes

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Acute alcohol intoxication induces significant alterations in brain cytokines. Since stress challenges also profoundly impact central cytokine expression, these experiments examined the influence of acute and chronic stress on ethanol-induced brain cytokine responses. In Experiment 1, adult male rats were exposed to acute footshock. After a post-stress recovery interval of 0, 2, 4, or 24 h, rats were administered ethanol (4 g/kg; intragastric), with trunk blood and brains collected 3 h later. In non-stressed controls, acute ethanol increased expression of Il-6 and IκBα in the hippocampus. In contrast, rats exposed to footshock 24 h prior to ethanol demonstrated potentiation of hippocampal Il-6 and IκBα expression relative to ethanol-exposed non-stressed controls. Experiment 2 subsequently examined the effects of chronic stress on ethanol-related cytokine expression. Following a novel chronic escalating stress procedure, rats were intubated with ethanol. As expected, acute ethanol increased Il-6 expression in all structures examined, yet the Il-6 response was attenuated exclusively in the hippocampus in chronically stressed rats. Later experiments determined that neither acute nor chronic stress affected ethanol pharmacokinetics. When ethanol hypnosis was examined, however, rats exposed to chronic stress awoke at significantly lower blood ethanol levels compared to acutely stressed rats, despite similar durations of ethanol-induced sedation. These data indicate that chronic stress may increase sensitivity to ethanol hypnosis. Together, these experiments demonstrate an intriguing interaction between recent stress history and ethanol-induced increases in hippocampal Il-6, and may provide insight into novel pharmacotherapeutic targets for prevention and treatment of alcohol-related health outcomes based on stress susceptibility.

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Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

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