Food and Behaviour Research

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Manipulations of central amygdala neurotensin neurons alter the consumption of ethanol and sweet fluids in mice

Luisa Torruella-Suárez M, Vandenberg JR, Cogan ES, Tipton GJ, Teklezghi A, Dange K, Patel GK, McHenry JA, Hardaway JA, Kantak PA, Crowley NA, DiBerto JF, Faccidomo SP, Hodge CW, Stuber GD, McElligott ZA (2019) J Neurosci.  2019 Nov.  pii: 1466-19. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1466-19.2019. [Epub ahead of print] 

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Abstract:

The central nucleus of the amygdala plays a significant role in alcohol use and other affective disorders; however, the genetically-defined neuronal subtypes and their projections that govern these behaviors are not well known.

Here we show that 
neurotensin neurons in the central nucleus of the amygdala of male mice are activated by in vivo ethanol consumption and that genetic ablation of these neurons decreases ethanol consumption and preference in non-ethanol dependent animals. This ablation did not impact preference for sucrose, saccharin, or quinine.

We found that the most robust projection of the 
central amygdala neurotensin neurons was to the parabrachial nucleus, a brain region known to be important in feeding behaviors, conditioned taste aversion, and alarm. Optogenetic stimulation of projections from these neurons to the parabrachial nucleus is reinforcing, and increases ethanol drinking as well as consumption of sucrose and saccharin solutions.

These data suggest that this 
central amygdala to parabrachial nucleus projection influences the expression of reward-related phenotypes and is a novel circuit promoting consumption of ethanol and palatable fluids.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTAlcohol use disorder (AUD) is a major health burden worldwide. While ethanol consumption is required for the development of AUD, much remains unknown regarding the underlying neural circuits that govern initial ethanol intake. Here we show that ablation of a population of neurotensin-expressing neurons in the central amygdala decreases intake of and preference for ethanol in non-dependent animals, while the projection of these neurons to the parabrachial nucleus promotes consumption of ethanol as well as other palatable fluids.

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