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1.  Role of Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis Corticotrophin-Releasing Factor Receptors in Frustration Stress-Induced Binge-Like Palatable Food Consumption in Female Rats with a History of Food Restriction 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(34):11316-11324.
We developed recently a binge-eating model in which female rats with a history of intermittent food restriction show binge-like palatable food consumption after 15 min exposure to the sight of the palatable food. This “frustration stress” manipulation also activates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal stress axis. Here, we determined the role of the stress neurohormone corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) in stress-induced binge eating in our model. We also assessed the role of CRF receptors in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain region implicated in stress responses and stress-induced drug seeking, in stress-induced binge eating. We used four groups that were first exposed or not exposed to repeated intermittent cycles of regular chow food restriction during which they were also given intermittent access to high-caloric palatable food. On the test day, we either exposed or did not expose the rats to the sight of the palatable food for 15 min (frustration stress) before assessing food consumption for 2 h. We found that systemic injections of the CRF1 receptor antagonist R121919 (2,5-dimethyl-3-(6-dimethyl-4-methylpyridin-3-yl)-7 dipropylamino pyrazolo[1,5-a]pyrimidine) (10–20 mg/kg) and BNST (25–50 ng/side) or ventricular (1000 ng) injections of the nonselective CRF receptor antagonist d-Phe-CRF(12–41) decreased frustration stress-induced binge eating in rats with a history of food restriction. Frustration stress also increased Fos (a neuronal activity marker) expression in ventral and dorsal BNST. Results demonstrate a critical role of CRF receptors in BNST in stress-induced binge eating in our rat model. CRF1 receptor antagonists may represent a novel pharmacological treatment for bingeing-related eating disorders.
PMCID: PMC4138341  PMID: 25143612
binge eating; BNST; CRF1 receptor antagonist; palatable food; R121919; stress and food restriction
2.  Translational approach to develop novel medications on alcohol addiction: Focus on neuropeptides 
Current opinion in neurobiology  2013;23(4):684-691.
Research on alcohol and drug dependence has shown that the development of addiction depends on a complex interplay of psychological factors, genetic or epigenetic predisposing factors, and neurobiological adaptations induced by drug consumption. A greater understanding of the mechanisms leading to alcohol abuse will allow researchers to identify genetic variation that corresponds to a specific biological vulnerability to addiction, thus defining robust endophenotypes that might help deconstruct these complex syndromes into more tractable components. To this end, it is critical to develop a translational framework that links alterations at the molecular level, to changes in neuronal function, and ultimately to changes at the behavioral and clinical levels. Translational phenotypes can be identified by the combination of animal and human studies designed to elucidate the neurofunctional, anatomical and pharmacological mechanisms underlying the etiology of alcohol addiction. The present article offers an overview of medication development in alcoholism with a focus on the critical aspect of translational research. Moreover, significant examples of promising targets from neuropeptidergic systems, namely nociceptin/orphanin FQ and neuropeptide S are given.
PMCID: PMC3735833  PMID: 23648086
Alcoholism; Drug abuse; Addiction; Translational Medicine; Brain Imaging
3.  Restraint Stress Alters Nociceptin/Orphanin FQ and CRF Systems in the Rat Central Amygdala: Significance for Anxiety-Like Behaviors 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(2):363-372.
Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) is the primary mediator of stress responses, and nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) plays an important role in the modulation of these stress responses. Thus, in this multidisciplinary study, we explored the relationship between the N/OFQ and the CRF systems in response to stress. Using in situ hybridization (ISH), we assessed the effect of body restraint stress on the gene expression of CRF and N/OFQ-related genes in various subdivisions of the amygdala, a critical brain structure involved in the modulation of stress response and anxiety-like behaviors. We found a selective upregulation of the NOP and downregulation of the CRF1 receptor transcripts in the CeA and in the BLA after body restraint. Thus, we performed intracellular electrophysiological recordings of GABAA-mediated IPSPs in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) to explore functional interactions between CRF and N/OFQ systems in this brain region. Acute application of CRF significantly increased IPSPs in the CeA, and this enhancement was blocked by N/OFQ. Importantly, in stress-restraint rats, baseline CeA GABAergic responses were elevated and N/OFQ exerted a larger inhibition of IPSPs compared with unrestraint rats. The NOP antagonist [Nphe1]-nociceptin(1–13)NH2 increased the IPSP amplitudes in restraint rats but not in unrestraint rats, suggesting a functional recruitment of the N/OFQ system after acute stress. Finally, we evaluated the anxiety-like response in rats subjected to restraint stress and nonrestraint rats after N/OFQ microinjection into the CeA. Intra-CeA injections of N/OFQ significantly and selectively reduced anxiety-like behavior in restraint rats in the elevated plus maze. These combined results demonstrate that acute stress increases N/OFQ systems in the CeA and that N/OFQ has antistress properties.
PMCID: PMC3870926  PMID: 24403138
4.  Neonatal exposure to permethrin pesticide causes lifelong fear and spatial learning deficits and alters hippocampal morphology of synapses 
During the neurodevelopmental period, the brain is potentially more susceptible to environmental exposure to pollutants. The aim was to determine if neonatal exposure to permethrin (PERM) pesticide, at a low dosage that does not produce signs of obvious abnormalities, could represent a risk for the onset of diseases later in the life.
Neonatal rats (from postnatal day 6 to 21) were treated daily by gavage with a dose of PERM (34 mg/kg) close to the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL), and hippocampal morphology and function of synapses were investigated in adulthood. Fear conditioning, passive avoidance and Morris water maze tests were used to assess cognitive skills in rats, whereas electron microscopy analysis was used to investigate hippocampal morphological changes that occurred in adults.
In both contextual and tone fear conditioning tests, PERM-treated rats showed a decreased freezing. In the passive avoidance test, the consolidation of the inhibitory avoidance was time-limited: the memory was not impaired for the first 24 h, whereas the information was not retained 72 h following training. The same trend was observed in the spatial reference memories acquired by Morris water maze. In PERM-treated rats, electron microscopy analysis revealed a decrease of synapses and surface densities in the stratum moleculare of CA1, in the inner molecular layer of the dentate gyrus and in the mossy fibers of the hippocampal areas together with a decrease of perforated synapses in the stratum moleculare of CA1 and in the inner molecular layer of the dentate gyrus.
Early-life permethrin exposure imparts long-lasting consequences on the hippocampus such as impairment of long-term memory storage and synaptic morphology.
PMCID: PMC3994247  PMID: 24678976
Neonatal exposure; permethrin; hippocampus; synapse; fear conditioning
5.  Role of a Genetic Polymorphism in the Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Receptor 1 Gene in Alcohol Drinking and Seeking Behaviors of Marchigian Sardinian Alcohol-Preferring Rats 
Marchigian Sardinian alcohol-preferring (msP) rats exhibit innate preference for alcohol, are highly sensitive to stress and stress-induced alcohol seeking. Genetic analysis showed that over-expression of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system of msP rats is correlated with the presence of two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) occurring in the promoter region (position −1836 and −2097) of the CRF1 receptor (CRF1-R) gene. Here we examined whether these point mutations were associated to the innate alcohol preference, stress-induced drinking, and seeking. We have recently re-derived the msP rats to obtain two distinct lines carrying the wild type (GG) and the point mutations (AA), respectively. The phenotypic characteristics of these two lines were compared with those of unselected Wistar rats. Both AA and GG rats showed similar patterns of voluntary alcohol intake and preference. Similarly, the pharmacological stressor yohimbine (0.0, 0.625, 1.25, and 2.5 mg/kg) elicited increased operant alcohol self-administration under fixed and progressive ratio reinforcement schedules in all three lines. Following extinction, yohimbine (0.0, 0.625, 1.25, and 2.5 mg/kg) significantly reinstated alcohol seeking in the three groups. However, at the highest dose this effect was no longer evident in AA rats. Treatment with the CRF1-R antagonist antalarmin (0, 5, 10, and 20 mg/kg) significantly reduced alcohol-reinforced lever pressing in the AA line (10 and 20 mg/kg) while a weaker or no effect was observed in the Wistar and the GG group, respectively. Finally, antalarmin significantly reduced yohimbine-induced increase in alcohol drinking in all three groups. In conclusion, these specific SNPs in the CRF1-R gene do not seem to play a primary role in the expression of the msP excessive drinking phenotype or stress-induced drinking but may be associated with a decreased threshold for stress-induced alcohol seeking and an increased sensitivity to the effects of pharmacological blockade of CRF1-R on alcohol drinking.
PMCID: PMC3624086  PMID: 23630503
CRF; SNP; self-administration; msP; yohimbine; relapse
6.  Activation of brain NOP receptors attenuates acute and protracted alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the rat 
Alcohol withdrawal, refers to a cluster of symptoms that may occur from suddenly ceasing the use of alcohol after chronic or prolonged ingestion. These symptoms make alcohol abstinence difficult and increase the risk of relapse in recovering alcoholics. In previous studies, we demonstrated that treatment with N/OFQ significantly reduces alcohol consumption and attenuates alcohol-seeking behaviour induced by environmental conditioning factors or by stress in rats. In the present study we evaluated whether activation of brain NOP receptors may also attenuate alcohol withdrawal signs in rats.
For this purpose animals were subjected to a 6 day chronic alcohol intoxication (by intragastric administration) and at 8, 10 and 12 hours following cessation of alcohol exposure they were treated intracerebroventricularly (ICV) with N/OFQ (0.0, 1.0 and 3.0 μg/rat). Somatic withdrawal signs were scored after ICV treatment. In a subsequent experiment, to evaluate N/OFQ effects on alcohol withdrawal-induced anxiety another group of rats was subjected to ethanol intoxication and after one week was tested for anxiety behavior in the elevated plus maze (EPM). In the last experiment an additional group of rats was tested for anxiety elicited by acute ethanol intoxication (hangover anxiety). For this purpose, animals received an acute dose (3.0 g/kg) of 20% alcohol and 12-h later were tested in the EPM following ICV N/OFQ (0.0, 1.0 and 2.0μg/rat).
Results showed that N/OFQ significantly reduced the expression of somatic withdrawal signs and reversed anxiety-like behaviors associated with both chronic and acute alcohol intoxication. N/OFQ did not affect anxiety scores in nondependent animals.
The present findings suggest that the N/OFQ-NOP receptor system may represent a promising target for the development of new treatments to ameliorate alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3066303  PMID: 21223310
Nociceptin; Orphanin FQ; Alcoholism; Withdrawal; Anxiety
7.  Endocannabinoid Regulation of Acute and Protracted Nicotine Withdrawal: Effect of FAAH Inhibition 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28142.
Evidence shows that the endocannabinoid system modulates the addictive properties of nicotine. In the present study, we hypothesized that spontaneous withdrawal resulting from removal of chronically implanted transdermal nicotine patches is regulated by the endocannabinoid system. A 7-day nicotine dependence procedure (5.2 mg/rat/day) elicited occurrence of reliable nicotine abstinence symptoms in Wistar rats. Somatic and affective withdrawal signs were observed at 16 and 34 hours following removal of nicotine patches, respectively. Further behavioral manifestations including decrease in locomotor activity and increased weight gain also occurred during withdrawal. Expression of spontaneous nicotine withdrawal was accompanied by fluctuation in levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) in several brain structures including the amygdala, the hippocampus, the hypothalamus and the prefrontal cortex. Conversely, levels of 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol were not significantly altered. Pharmacological inhibition of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the enzyme responsible for the intracellular degradation of AEA, by URB597 (0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg, i.p.), reduced withdrawal-induced anxiety as assessed by the elevated plus maze test and the shock-probe defensive burying paradigm, but did not prevent the occurrence of somatic signs. Together, the results indicate that pharmacological strategies aimed at enhancing endocannabinoid signaling may offer therapeutic advantages to treat the negative affective state produced by nicotine withdrawal, which is critical for the maintenance of tobacco use.
PMCID: PMC3227620  PMID: 22140525
8.  Genetically selected Marchigian Sardinian alcohol-preferring (msP) rats: an animal model to study the neurobiology of alcoholism 
Addiction biology  2006;11(3-4):339-355.
The present article provides an up-to-date review that summarize almost 18 years of research in genetically selected Marchigian Sardinian alcohol-preferring (msP) rats. The results of this work demonstrate that msP rats have natural preference for ethanol characterized by a spontaneous binge-type of drinking leading to pharmacologically significant blood ethanol levels. This rat line is highly vulnerable to relapse and presentation of stimuli predictive of alcohol availability or foot-shock stress can reinstate extinguished drug-seeking up to 8 months from the last alcohol experience. The msP rat is highly sensitive to stress, shows an anxious phenotype and has depressive-like symptoms that recover following ethanol drinking. Interestingly, these animals have an up-regulated corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) receptor 1 system. From clinical studies we learned that alcoholic patients often drink ethanol in the attempt to self-medicate from negative affective states and to search anxiety relief. We propose that msP rats represent an animal model that largely mimics that human alcoholic population that due to low ability to engage in stress-coping strategies drink ethanol as a tension relief strategy and for self-medication purposes.
PMCID: PMC3035824  PMID: 16961763
9.  Increased mRNA Levels of TCF7L2 and MYC of the Wnt Pathway in Tg-ArcSwe Mice and Alzheimer's Disease Brain 
Several components in the Wnt pathway, including β-catenin and glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta, have been implied in AD pathogenesis. Here, mRNA brain levels from five-month-old tg-ArcSwe and nontransgenic mice were compared using Affymetrix microarray analysis. With surprisingly small overall changes, Wnt signaling was the most affected pathway with altered expression of nine genes in tg-ArcSwe mice. When analyzing mRNA levels of these genes in human brain, transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) and v-myc myelocytomatosis viral oncogene homolog (MYC), were increased in Alzheimer's disease (AD) (P < .05). Furthermore, no clear differences in TCF7L2 and MYC mRNA were found in brains with frontotemporal lobar degeneration, suggesting that altered regulation of these Wnt-related genes could be specific to AD. Finally, mRNA levels of three neurogenesis markers were analyzed. Increased mRNA levels of dihydropyrimidinase-like 3 were observed in AD brain, suggesting that altered Wnt pathway regulation may signify synaptic rearrangement or neurogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3014771  PMID: 21234373
10.  Analysis of Endocrine Disruption in Southern California Coastal Fish Using an Aquatic Multispecies Microarray 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;117(2):223-230.
Endocrine disruptors include plasticizers, pesticides, detergents, and pharmaceuticals. Turbot and other flatfish are used to characterize the presence of chemicals in the marine environment. Unfortunately, there are relatively few genes of turbot and other flatfish in GenBank, which limits the use of molecular tools such as microarrays and quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to study disruption of endocrine responses in sentinel fish captured by regulatory agencies.
We fabricated a multigene cross-species microarray as a diagnostic tool to screen the effects of environmental chemicals in fish, for which there is minimal genomic information. The array included genes that are involved in the actions of adrenal and sex steroids, thyroid hormone, and xenobiotic responses. This microarray will provide a sensitive tool for screening for the presence of chemicals with adverse effects on endocrine responses in coastal fish species.
We used a custom multispecies microarray to study gene expression in wild hornyhead turbot (Pleuronichthys verticalis) collected from polluted and clean coastal waters and in laboratory male zebrafish (Danio rerio) after exposure to estradiol and 4-nonylphenol. We measured gene-specific expression in turbot liver by qRT-PCR and correlated it to microarray data.
Microarray and qRT-PCR analyses of livers from turbot collected from polluted areas revealed altered gene expression profiles compared with those from nonaffected areas.
The agreement between the array data and qRT-PCR analyses validates this multispecies microarray. The microarray measurement of gene expression in zebrafish, which are phylogenetically distant from turbot, indicates that this multispecies microarray will be useful for measuring endocrine responses in other fish.
PMCID: PMC2649224  PMID: 19270792
Danio rerio; endocrine disruptors; flatfish; hornyhead turbot; microarray; multispecies array; nonylphenol; Pleuronichthys verticalis; xenobiotics; xenoestrogens; zebrafish

Results 1-10 (10)