, Volume 209, Issue 1, pp 103–111 | Cite as

Neurokinin-1 receptors (NK1R:s), alcohol consumption, and alcohol reward in mice

  • Annika Thorsell
  • Jesse R. Schank
  • Erick Singley
  • Stephen P. Hunt
  • Markus Heilig
Original Investigation



Reduced voluntary alcohol consumption was recently found in neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R)-deficient (KO) mice. It remains unknown whether this reflects developmental effects or direct regulation of alcohol consumption by NK1R:s, and whether the reduced consumption reflects motivational effects.


The objective of this study is to obtain an expanded preclinical validation of NK1R antagonism as a candidate therapeutic mechanism in alcohol use disorders.


The NK1R antagonist L-703,606 and NK1R KO mice were used in models that assess alcohol-related behaviors.


L-703,606 (3–10 mg/kg i.p.) dose-dependently suppressed alcohol intake in WT C57BL/6 mice under two-bottle free choice conditions but was ineffective in NK1R KO:s, demonstrating the receptor specificity of the effect. Alcohol reward, measured as conditioned place preference for alcohol, was reduced by NK1R receptor deletion in a gene dose-dependent manner. In a model where escalation of intake is induced by repeated cycles of deprivation and access, escalation was seen in WT mice, but not in KO mice. Among behavioral phenotypes previously reported for NK1R mice on a mixed background, an analgesic-like phenotype was maintained on the C57BL/6 background used here, while KO:s and WT:s did not differ in anxiety- and depression-related behaviors.


Acute blockade of NK1R:s mimics the effects of NKR1 gene deletion on alcohol consumption, supporting a direct rather than developmental role of the receptor in regulation of alcohol intake. Inactivation of NK1R:s critically modulates alcohol reward and escalation, two key characteristics of addiction. These data provide critical support for NK1R antagonism as a candidate mechanism for treatment of alcoholism.


Neurokinin-1 receptor Substance P Alcohol escalation Conditioned place preference 


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Copyright information

© US Government 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annika Thorsell
    • 1
  • Jesse R. Schank
    • 1
  • Erick Singley
    • 1
  • Stephen P. Hunt
    • 2
  • Markus Heilig
    • 1
  1. 1.The Laboratory of Clinical and Translational StudiesNational Institute On Alcohol Abuse and AlcoholismBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Cell and Developmental BiologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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