Bendre M, Comasco E, Nylander I, Nilsson KW
Transl Psychiatry 5 (-) e690 [2015-12-08; online 2015-12-08]
Discordant associations between monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) genotype and high alcohol drinking have been reported in human and non-human primates. Environmental influences likely moderate genetic susceptibility. The biological basis for this interplay remains elusive, and inconsistencies call for translational studies in which conditions can be controlled and brain tissue is accessible. The present study investigated whether early life stress and subsequent adult episodic alcohol consumption affect Maoa expression in stress- and reward-related brain regions in the rat. Outbred Wistar rats were exposed to rearing conditions associated with stress (prolonged maternal separation) or no stress during early life, and given free choice between alcohol and/or water in adulthood. Transcript levels of Maoa were assessed in the ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens (NAc), medial prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, amygdala and dorsal striatum (DS). Blood was collected to assess corticosterone levels. After alcohol consumption, lower blood corticosterone and Maoa expression in the NAc and DS were found in rats exposed to early life stress compared with control rats. An interaction between early life stress and voluntary alcohol intake was found in the NAc. Alcohol intake before death correlated negatively with Maoa expression in DS in high alcohol-drinking rats exposed to early life stress. Maoa expression is sensitive to adulthood voluntary alcohol consumption in the presence of early life stress in outbred rats. These findings add knowledge of the molecular basis of the previously reported associations between early life stress, MAOA and susceptibility to alcohol misuse.