Acetaldehyde excitation of lateral habenular neurons via multiple cellular mechanisms

Weiyuan Huang, Wanhong Zuo, Lixin Chen, Liwei Wang, George Tewfik, Rao Fu, Jiayi Zheng, Ding Li, Jiang Hong Ye

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1 Scopus citations


Acetaldehyde (ACD), the first metabolite of ethanol, is implicated in several of ethanol's actions, including the reinforcing and aversive effects. The neuronal mechanisms underlying ACD's aversive effect, however, are poorly understood. The lateral habenula (LHb), a regulator of midbrain monoaminergic centers, is activated by negative valence events. Although the LHb has been linked to the aversive responses of several abused drugs, including ethanol, little is known about ACD. We, therefore, assessed ACD's action on LHb neurons in rats. The results showed that intraperitoneal injection of ACD increased cFos protein expression within the LHb and that intra-LHb infusion of ACD induced conditioned place aversion in male rats. Furthermore, electrophysiological recording in brain slices of male and female rats showed that bath application of ACD facilitated spontaneous firing and glutamatergic transmission. This effect of ACD was potentiated by an aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) inhibitor, disulfiram (DS), but attenuated by the antagonists of dopamine (DA) receptor (DAR) subtype 1 (SCH23390) and subtype 2 (raclopride), and partly abolished by the pretreatment of DA or DA reuptake blocker (GBR12935; GBR). Moreover, application of ACD initiated a depolarizing inward current (IACD) and enhanced the hyperpolarizing-activated currents in LHb neurons. Bath application of Rp-cAMPs, a selective cAMP-PKA inhibitor, attenuated ACD-induced potentiation of EPSCs and IACD. Finally, bath application of ZD7288, a selective blocker of hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channels, attenuated ACD-induced potentiation of firing, EPSCs, and IACD. These results show that ACD exerts its aversive property by exciting LHb neurons via multiple cellular mechanisms, and new treatments targeting the LHb may be beneficial for alcoholism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7532-7545
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 8 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Aversion
  • Dopamine receptor
  • Electrophysiology
  • HCN channels
  • Immunochemistry


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