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Adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure alters adult exploratory and affective behaviors, and cerebellar Grin2b expression in C57BL/6J mice.

Binge drinking is one of the most common patterns (more than 90%) of alcohol consumption by young people. During adolescence, the brain undergoes maturational changes that influence behavioral control and affective behaviors, such as cerebellar brain volume and function in adulthood. We investigated long-term impacts of adolescent binge ethanol exposure on affective and exploratory behaviors and cerebellar gene expression in adult male and female mice. Further, the cerebellum is increasingly recognized as a brain region integrating a multitude of behaviors that span from the traditional primary sensory-motor to affective functions, such as anxiety and stress reactivity. Therefore, we investigated the persistent effects of adolescent intermittent ethanol (AIE) on exploratory and affective behaviors and began to elucidate the role of the cerebellum in these behaviors through excitatory signaling gene expression. We exposed C57BL/6J mice to AIE or air (control) vapor inhalation from postnatal day 28-42. After prolonged abstinence (>34 days), in young adulthood (PND 77+) we assessed behavior in the open field, light/dark, tail suspension, and forced swim stress tests to determine changes in affective behaviors including anxiety-like, depressive-like, and stress reactivity behavior. Excitatory signaling gene mRNA levels of fragile X messenger ribonucleoprotein (FMR1), glutamate receptors (Grin2a, Grin2b and Grm5) and excitatory synaptic markers (PSD-95 and Eaat1) were measured in the cerebellum of adult control and AIE-exposed mice. AIE-exposed mice showed decreased exploratory behaviors in the open field test (OFT) where both sexes show reduced ambulation, however only females exhibited a reduction in rearing. Additionally, in the OFT, AIE-exposed females also exhibited increased anxiety-like behavior (entries to center zone). In the forced swim stress test, AIE-exposed male mice, but not females, spent less time immobile compared to their same-sex controls, indicative of sex-specific changes in stress reactivity. Male and female AIE-exposed mice showed increased Grin2b (Glutamate Ionotropic Receptor NMDA Type Subunit 2B) mRNA levels in the cerebellum compared to their same-sex controls. Together, these data show that adolescent binge-like ethanol exposure altered both exploratory and affective behaviors in a sex-specific manner and modified cerebellar Grin2b expression in adult mice. This indicates the cerebellum may serve as an important brain region that is susceptible to long-term molecular changes after AIE.

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