The central nervous system is vulnerable to chronic alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence is a chronically relapsing disorder which causes a variety of physical and mental disorders. Appropriate animal models are important for investigating the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. The crossed High Alcohol Preferring mice prefer alcohol to water when given free access. In the present study, we used female cHAP mice as a model of chronic voluntary drinking to evaluate the effects of alcohol on neurobehavioral and neuropathological changes. The female cHAP mice had free-choice access to 10% ethanol and water, while control mice had access to water alone at the age of 60-day-old. The mice were exposed to alcohol for 7 months then subjected to neurobehavioral tests including open field (OF), elevated plus maze (EPM), and Morris water maze (MWM). Results from OF and EPM tests suggested that chronic voluntary drinking caused anxiety-like behaviors. After behavior tests, mice were sacrificed, and brain tissues were processed for biochemical analyses. Alcohol altered the levels of several neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors in the brain including gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), corticotropin-releasing factor, cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Alcohol increased the expression of neuroinflammation markers including interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and C-C chemokine receptor 2 (CCR2). Alcohol also induced cleaved caspase-3 and glial fibrillary acidic protein, indicative of neurodegeneration and gliosis. In addition, alcohol inhibited the expression of thiamine transporters in the brain and reduced thiamine levels in the blood. Alcohol also caused oxidative stress and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and stimulated neurogenesis.

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Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, v. 12, 614396.

© 2021 Xu, Li, Liu, Wen, Xu, Frank, Chen, Zhu, Grahame and Luo

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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This research is supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development (Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development: Merit Review (BX001721)) to JL. It is also supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (AA017226 and AA015407) to JL. Provision of cHAP mice was supported by the NIH grant AA015512 to Richard Bell at the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. It is also supported by the University of Kentucky Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant P30 GM127211/GM/NIGMS NIH HHS/United States.

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The original data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.