Ethanol enhances neurosteroidogenesis in hippocampal pyramidal neurons by paradoxical NMDA receptor activation

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Using an antibody against 5α-reduced neurosteroids, predominantly allopregnanolone, we found that immunostaining in the CA1 region of rat hippocampal slices was confined to pyramidal neurons. This neurosteroid staining was increased following 15 min administration of 60 mM but not 20 mM ethanol, and the enhancement was blocked by finasteride and dutasteride, selective inhibitors of 5α-reductase, a key enzyme required for allopregnanolone synthesis. Consistent with a prior report indicating thatN-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor (NMDAR) activation can promote steroid production, we observed that D-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (APV), a competitiveNMDARantagonist, blocked the effects of 60mM ethanol on staining.Wepreviously reported that 60mM ethanol inhibits the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP), a cellular model formemoryformation, in theCA1region. In the present study,LTPinhibition by 60mMethanol was also overcome by both the 5α-reductase inhibitors and by APV. Furthermore, the effects of ethanol on neurosteroid production and LTP were mimicked by a low concentration of NMDA (1 μM), and the ability of NMDA to inhibit LTP and to enhance neurosteroid staining was reversed by finasteride and dutasteride, as well as by APV. These results indicate that ethanol paradoxically enhances GABAergic neurosteroid production by activation of unblocked NMDARs and that acute LTP inhibition by ethanol represents a form of NMDAR-mediated metaplasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9905-9909
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 6 2011


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