Taurine is an abundant amino acid in the brain that shares pharmacological effects and similar potency with ethanol. Recently, taurine-containing beverages have been reported to enhance the euphoric effects of ethanol, though the extent of this effect and the role of taurine remain speculative. The present study was designed to explore interactions between taurine and ethanol on several behaviors including locomotion, ataxia, and loss of righting. Two strains of mice, C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice, were used to examine potential strain differences. In the first experiment, effects of various doses of taurine (0.3-3.0 g/kg), ethanol (1.0-4.2 g/kg), or taurine in combination with ethanol were assessed in a within-subjects design. Although taurine did not appear to alter effects of ethanol on any measure in either strain, the development of tolerance to locomotor effects and sensitization to ataxic effects of ethanol in DBA/2J mice complicated interpretation of these results. In a second experiment, drug-naïve mice were assigned to one of four treatment groups: saline + saline, saline + ethanol (1.78 g/kg), taurine (1.78 g/kg) + saline, or ethanol + taurine. In this experiment, taurine pretreatment significantly attenuated the locomotor-stimulating effect of ethanol in both strains (but to a greater extent in C57BL/6J mice) and appeared to reduce the ataxic effects of ethanol in C57BL/6J mice. In conclusion, the interaction between taurine and ethanol is subtle. Further, results are inconsistent with the notion that taurine plays a major role in the locomotor, ataxic, or loss of righting effects of ethanol.
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