A role for corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) in ethanol consumption, sensitivity, and reward as revealed by CRF-deficient mice
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RATIONALE: Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) plays an integral role in mediating stress responses and anxiety. However, little is known regarding the role of CRF in ethanol consumption, a behavior often associated with stress and anxiety in humans. OBJECTIVE: The present study sought to determine the role of CRF in ethanol consumption, locomotor sensitivity and reward by examining these behaviors in C57BL/6J x 129S mice with a targeted disruption in the gene encoding the CRF prohormone. METHODS: Male wild-type and CRF-deficient mice were given concurrent access to ethanol and water in both limited and unlimited-access two-bottle choice paradigms. Taste reactivity (saccharin or quinine vs water) was examined in a similar manner under continuous-access conditions. Blood ethanol levels and clearance were measured following limited ethanol access as well as a 4-g/kg i.p. injection of ethanol. Locomotor stimulant effects of ethanol were measured in an open-field testing chamber, and the rewarding effects of ethanol were examined using the conditioned place preference paradigm. RESULTS: CRF-deficient mice displayed normal body weight, total fluid intake, taste reactivity and blood ethanol clearance, but consumed approximately twice as much ethanol as wild types in both continuous- and limited-access paradigms. CRF-deficient mice failed to demonstrate a locomotor stimulant effect following acute administration of ethanol (2 g/kg i.p.), and also failed to demonstrate a conditioned place preference to ethanol at 2 g/kg i.p., but did display such a preference at 3 g/kg i.p. CONCLUSIONS: CRF deficiency may lead to excessive ethanol consumption by reducing sensitivity to the locomotor stimulant and rewarding effects of ethanol.