Adolescent alcohol disrupts development of noradrenergic neurons in the nucleus of the tractus solitarius and enhances stress behaviors in adulthood in mice in a sex specific manner

Liz A. Aguilar, Caitlin R. Coker, Zari McCullers, Alexandra Evans, Opeyemi Showemimo, Mariam Melkumyan, Bailey N. Keller, Angela E. Snyder, Sarah S. Bingaman, Patrick A. Randall, Andras Hajnal, Kirsteen N. Browning, Amy C. Arnold, Yuval Silberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are common mental health issues worldwide and can lead to other chronic diseases. Stress is a major factor in the development and continuation of AUDs, and adolescent alcohol exposure can lead to enhanced stress-responsivity and increased risk for AUD development in adulthood. The exact mechanisms behind the interaction between adolescence, stress, and alcohol are not fully understood and require further research. In this regard, the nucleus of the tractus solitarius (NTS) provides dense norepinephrine projections to the extended amygdala, providing a key pathway for stress-related alcohol behaviors. While NTS norepinephrine neurons are known to be alcohol sensitive, whether adolescent alcohol disrupts NTS-norepinephrine neuron development and if this is related to altered stress-sensitivity and alcohol preference in adulthood has not previously been examined. Here, we exposed male and female C57Bl/6J mice to the commonly used adolescent intermittent ethanol (AIE) vapor model during postnatal day 28-42 and examined AIE effects on: 1) tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) mRNA expression in the NTS across various ages (postnatal day 21-90), 2) behavioral responses to acute stress in the light/dark box test in adulthood, 3) NTS TH neuron responses to acute stress and ethanol challenges in adulthood, and 4) ethanol conditioned place preference behavior in adulthood. Overall the findings indicate that AIE alters NTS TH mRNA expression and increases anxiety-like behaviors following acute stress exposure in a sex-dependent manner. These mRNA expression and behavioral changes occur in the absence of AIE-induced changes in NTS TH neuron sensitivity to either acute stress or acute alcohol exposure or changes to ethanol conditioned place preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100132
JournalAddiction Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)

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