Alcohol, allopregnanolone and aggression in mice
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Fish, E., Faccidomo, S., DeBold, J. et al. Psychopharmacology (2001) 153: 473. doi:10.1007/s002130000587
Rationale: Aggressive behavior of certain individual animals can be greatly increased when under the influence of low doses of alcohol. One of alcohol's neurochemical actions that may be relevant to alcohol-heightened aggression (AHA) is its positive modulation of the GABAA receptor complex. Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate whether alcohol interacts with an endogenous modulator of the GABAA receptor complex, the neurosteroid allopregnanolone, in stimulating/heightening aggressive behavior. Methods and results: The first experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that neurosteroid modulators of the GABAA receptor complex will increase aggression and to compare these effects with alcohol. Male CFW mice were injected with allopregnanolone, alphaxalone (3–30 mg/kg, IP), or alcohol (1.0 g/kg, PO) 15 min prior to a 5-min confrontation with an intruder. Moderate doses of alcohol and the neurosteroids increased aggression by ca. 50% above baseline; impaired locomotion was seen only at the highest doses. A second experiment compared AHA and ANA (i.e. alcohol-non-heightened aggression) mice by giving allopregnanolone (1–10 mg/kg) with a simultaneous oral injection of alcohol (0.6 or 1.0 g/kg) or water. When administered with water and the 0.6 g/kg dose of alcohol, allopregnanolone increased the aggression of AHA and ANA mice. Administration of the 1.0 g/kg dose of alcohol in ANA mice prevented allopregnanolone-heightened aggression. In AHA mice, addition of allopregnanolone to 1.0 g/kg alcohol dose-dependently reduced alcohol-heightened aggression, suggesting potentiation of alcohol's suppressive effects on aggression. Conclusions: The neuroactive steroid allopregnanolone appears to play an important role in alcohol-heightened aggression. Moreover, the upward shift of the aggression-heightening effects of alcohol and the downward shift at the maximally effective alcohol dose by allopregnanolone point to a shared mechanism for both positive modulators of the GABAA receptor complex.