Polymorphisms of the catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) gene have been associated with alcoholism, suggesting that alterations in the metabolism of catecholamines may be a critical component of the neuropathology of alcoholism. In the current experiments, the COMT inhibitor tolcapone was utilized in an operant behavioral model of reinforcer-seeking and drinking to determine if this compound was capable of remediating the excessive seeking and drinking phenotype of the alcohol-preferring P rat. Tolcapone was administered to male and female alcohol-reinforced P and Wistar rats. Additionally, tolcapone was administered to male sucrose-reinforced P and Wistar rats to determine if its effects also extended to a natural reinforcer. Animals were trained to make an operant response that resulted in 20 min uninterrupted access to the reinforcer solutions. Tolcapone had no effect in female rats on either seeking or consumption of ethanol. However, reductions of both reinforcer seeking and consumption were observed in male P rats, but only of seeking in Wistars. In separate experiments, using reinforcer naïve male and female animals, COMT expression was assessed via Western Blot analysis. Sex differences in COMT expression were also observed, where male P rats exhibited a marked reduction in protein expression relative to females in the PFC. Sex differences were not observed for Wistars or in the striatum and hippocampus. These data complement our previous findings in which tolcapone reduced cue-evoked responses in P rats and further suggest clinical utility of COMT inhibitors in the treatment of addiction disorders, specifically in male high drinkers.
Alcohol – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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