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Presence of ethanol‐sensitive glycine receptors in medium spiny neurons in the mouse nucleus accumbens

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The Journal of Physiology

Published online on


Key points The nucleus accumbens (nAc) is involved in addiction‐related behaviour caused by several drugs of abuse, including alcohol. Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are potentiated by ethanol and they have been implicated in the regulation of accumbal dopamine levels. We investigated the presence of GlyR subunits in nAc and their modulation by ethanol in medium spiny neurons (MSNs) of the mouse nAc. We found that the GlyR α1 subunit is preferentially expressed in nAc and is potentiated by ethanol. Our study shows that GlyR α1 in nAc is a new target for development of novel pharmacological tools for behavioural intervention in drug abuse. Abstract Alcohol abuse causes major social, economic and health‐related problems worldwide. Alcohol, like other drugs of abuse, increases levels of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (nAc), facilitating behavioural reinforcement and substance abuse. Previous studies suggested that glycine receptors (GlyRs) are involved in the regulation of accumbal dopamine levels. Here, we investigated the presence of GlyRs in accumbal dopamine receptor medium spiny neurons (MSNs) of C57BL/6J mice, analysing mRNA expression levels and immunoreactivity of GlyR subunits, as well as ethanol sensitivity. We found that GlyR α1 subunits are expressed at higher levels than α2, α3 and β in the mouse nAc and were located preferentially in dopamine receptor 1 (DRD1)‐positive MSNs. Interestingly, the glycine‐evoked currents in dissociated DRD1‐positive MSNs were potentiated by ethanol. Also, the potentiation of the GlyR‐mediated tonic current by ethanol suggests that they modulate the excitability of DRD1‐positive MSNs in nAc. This study should contribute to understanding the role of GlyR α1 in the reward system and might help to develop novel pharmacological therapies to treat alcoholism and other addiction‐related and compulsive behaviours.