Sedative and GABAergic effects of ethanol on male and female rats.
BACKGROUND: Women consume less alcohol than men, and yet they are more susceptible than men to the negative medical consequences of alcohol use, such as cirrhosis of the liver, cardiac disease, and cognitive impairments. This sex difference is also reflected in animal studies, in which male and female rats differ on both behavioral and electrophysiological measures. Given that one significant difference between males and females is the cycling fluctuations of the sex hormones, this study aimed to compare the relative sensitivity of adolescent and adult rats of both sexes and varying estrous stages to the behavioral and electrophysiological effects of ethanol. METHODS: Adult female rats were lavaged daily for estrous cycle assessment. Following administration of 5 g/kg ethanol, adolescent and adult male and female animals were observed for loss of the righting reflex. Then, using whole-cell recording, we tested the response of spontaneous, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA(A)) receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs) in hippocampal slices from drug-naïve adult male and female rats. RESULTS: Consistent with previous findings, adolescent animals were less sensitive than adults to the effect of ethanol on the righting reflex. In addition, adult proestrous and diestrous female rats were less sensitive than male rats to the sedative effects of ethanol. Finally, ethanol increased the frequency of sIPSCs in hippocampal pyramidal neurons and did so more potently in cells from male rats than in those from female rats. CONCLUSIONS: Female animals are less sensitive to the behavioral sedative effects of ethanol than adult male rats, and the effect is pronounced in the proestrous and diestrous states. This sex difference may be related to differential sensitivity of GABA receptor-mediated central nervous system function to ethanol in females.
Cha, YM; Li, Q; Wilson, WA; Swartzwelder, HS
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