Corticotropin releasing factor signaling in the central amygdala is recruited during binge-like ethanol consumption in C57BL/6J mice
A well established body of work indicates a crucial role for corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) in neurobiological responses associated with excessive dependence-like ethanol drinking in ethanol-vapor-exposed rodents. Recent evidence demonstrates a role for CRF in the modulation of binge-like ethanol consumption by nondependent mice, a behavior that can precede ethanol dependence. The CRF circuitry that is engaged by binge-like ethanol exposure, however, is unknown. Using converging approaches, we provide evidence that, similar to ethanol-vapor-induced increases in ethanol intake, CRF signaling in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) is engaged during binge-like ethanol consumption by C57BL/6J mice. Specifically, we found that binge-like consumption of an ethanol solution (20% ethanol v/v) was attenuated by pretreatment with the CRF1R antagonists antalarmin, 4-ethyl-[2,5,6-trimethyl-7-(2,4,6-trimethylphenyl)-7H-pyrrolo[2,3-d]pyrimidin-4-yl]amino-1-butanol, and NBI-27914 at doses (30 mg/kg, i.p.) that did not alter nonbinge-like ethanol consumption. Binge-like ethanol consumption resulted in significant increases of CRF immunoreactivity in the CeA immediately following ethanol drinking and 18-24 h following ethanol removal and also blocked the ability of CRF to enhance GABAergic transmission in the CeA 18-24 h following ethanol removal. Pretreatment with bilateral injections of antalarmin (1 μg/0.5 μl per side) into the CeA, but not the adjacent basolateral amygdala, significantly attenuated binge-like ethanol consumption. These findings suggest that CRF signaling in the CeA is recruited during excessive ethanol intake, before the development of dependence. We hypothesize that plastic changes in CRF signaling develop with repeated binge-like drinking episodes, contributing to the transition to dependence.