Epigenetic mechanisms are involved in the regulation of ethanol consumption in mice

Mei Qiang, Ji G. Li, Ashley D. Denny, Jie Min Yao, Mai Lieu, Kerang Zhang, Stephanie Carreon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Repeated alcohol exposure is known to increase subsequent ethanol consumption in mice. However, the underlying mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. One postulated mechanism involves epigenetic modifications, including histone modifications and DNA methylation of relevant genes such as NR2B or BDNF. Methods: To investigate the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the development of alcohol drinking behavior, an established chronic intermittent ethanol exposure reinforced ethanol drinking mouse model with vapor inhalation over two 9-day treatment regimens was used. The DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, 5-azacytidine or the histone deacetylase inhibitor, Trichostatin A was administered (intraperitoneally) to C57BL/6 mice 30 min before daily exposure to chronic intermittent ethanol. Changes in ethanol consumption were measured using the 2-bottle choice test. Results: The results indicated that systemic administration of Trichostatin A (2.5 μg/g) facilitated chronic intermittent ethanol-induced ethanol drinking, but systemic administration of 5-azacytidine (2 μg/g) did not cause the same effect. However, when 5-azacytidine was administered by intracerebroventricular injection, it facilitated chronic intermittent ethanol-induced ethanol drinking. Furthermore, the increased drinking caused by chronic intermittent ethanol was prevented by injection of a methyl donor, S-adenosyl-L-methionine. To provide evidence that chronic intermittent ethanol- or Trichostatin A-induced DNA demethylation and histone modifications of the NR2B promoter may underlie the altered ethanol consumption, we examined epigenetic modifications and NR2B expression in the prefrontal cortex of these mice. Chronic intermittent ethanol or Trichostatin A decreased DNA methylation and increased histone acetylation in the NR2B gene promoter, as well as mRNA levels of NR2B in these mice. Conclusions: Taken together, these results indicate that epigenetic modifications are involved in regulating ethanol drinking behavior, partially through altering NR2B expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-azacytidine
  • Alcohol drinking
  • Epigenetics
  • Mice
  • NR2B
  • SAM
  • Trichostatin-A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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