Influence of Age and Genetic Background on Ethanol Intake and Behavioral Response Following Ethanol Consumption and During Abstinence in a Model of Alcohol Abuse

Silvia Corongiu, Christian Dessì, Elena Espa, Augusta Pisanu, Annalisa Pinna, Daniele Lecca, Sandro Fenu, Cristina Cadoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic background and age at first exposure have been identified as critical variables that contribute to individual vulnerability to drug addiction. Evidence shows that genetic factors may account for 40–70% of the variance in liability to addiction. Alcohol consumption by young people, especially in the form of binge-drinking, is becoming an alarming phenomenon predictive of future problems with drinking. Thus, the literature indicates the need to better understand the influence of age and genetic background on the development of alcohol dependence. To this aim, the inbred rat strains Lewis (LEW, addiction prone) and Fischer 344 (F344, addiction resistant) were used as a model of genetic vulnerability to addiction and compared with the outbred strain Sprague-Dawley (SD) in a two-bottle choice paradigm as a model of alcohol abuse. During a 9-week period, adolescent and adult male rats of the three strains were intermittently exposed to ethanol (20%) and water during three 24-h sessions/week. Adult and adolescent SD and LEW rats escalated their alcohol intake over time reaching at stable levels, while F344 rats did not escalate their intake, regardless of age at drinking onset. Among adolescents, only F344 rats consumed a higher total amount of ethanol than adults, although only SD and LEW rats escalated their intake. Adult LEW rats, albeit having a lower ethanol consumption as compared to SD rats but greater than F344, showed a more compulsive intake, consuming higher amounts of ethanol during the first hour of exposure, reaching a higher degree of ethanol preference when start drinking as adolescents. Behavioral analysis during the first hour of ethanol consumption revealed significant strain differences, among which noticeable the lack of sedative effect in the LEW strain, at variance with F344 and SD strains, and highest indices of withdrawal (most notable jumping) in LEW rats during the first hour of abstinence days. The present results underscore the importance of individual genetic background and early onset of alcohol use in the progression toward abuse and development of alcohol addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number858940
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 28

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Substance Abuse

Free keywords

  • adolescence
  • alcohol use disorders
  • Fischer 344 rats
  • genetic vulnerability
  • Lewis rats


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