Taurine 8 pp 215-223 | Cite as

Rising Taurine and Ethanol Concentrations in Nucleus Accumbens Interact to Produce the Dopamine-Activating Effects of Alcohol

  • Mia EricsonEmail author
  • PeiPei Chau
  • Louise Adermark
  • Bo Söderpalm
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 775)


Alcohol misuse and addiction is a worldwide problem causing enormous individual suffering as well as financial costs for the society. To develop pharmacological means to reduce suffering, we need to understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of ethanol in the brain. Ethanol is known to increase extracellular levels of both dopamine and taurine in the nucleus accumbens (nAc), a part of the brain reward system, but the two events have not been connected. In previous studies we have demonstrated that glycine receptors in the nAc are involved in modulating both basal- and ethanol-induced dopamine output in the same brain region. By means of in vivo microdialysis in freely moving rats we here demonstrate that the endogenous glycine receptor ligand taurine mimics ethanol in activating the brain reward system. Furthermore, administration of systemic ethanol diluted in an isotonic (0.9% NaCl) or hypertonic (3.6% NaCl) saline solution was investigated with respect to extracellular levels of taurine and dopamine in the nAc. We found that ethanol given in a hypertonic solution, contrary to an isotonic solution, failed to increase concentrations of both taurine and dopamine in the nAc. However, a modest, non-dopamine elevating concentration of taurine in the nAc disclosed a dopamine elevating effect of systemic ethanol also when given in a hypertonic solution. We conclude that the elevations of taurine and dopamine in the nAc are closely related and that in order for ethanol to induce dopamine release, a simultaneous increase of extracellular taurine levels in the nAc is required. These data also ­provide support for the notion that the nAc is the primary target for ethanol in its dopamine-activating effect after systemic administration and that taurine is a prominent participant in activating the brain reward system.


Ventral Tegmental Area Extracellular Level Glycine Receptor Ethanol Administration Hypertonic Solution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Nucleus accumbens


Glycine receptor


Ventral tegmental area


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor





The authors are thankful for the technical assistance from Mrs Rosita Stomberg. This work was supported by Swedish Medical Research Council (Grants No: 2009-2289, 2009-4477, 2010-3100), governmental support under the LUA/ALF agreement, Wilhelm and Martina Lundgrens Scientific Foundation, the Swedish Brain foundation.


  1. Adermark L, Clarke RBC, Olsson T, Hansson E, Söderpalm B, Ericson M (2011) Implications for glycine receptors and astrocytes in ethanol-induced elevation of dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens. Addict Biol 16(1):43–54PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allansson L, Khatibi S, Olsson T, Hansson E (2001) Acute ethanol exposure induces [Ca2+]i transients, cell swelling and transformation of actin cytoskeleton in astroglial primary cultures. J Neurochem 76:472–479PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boileau I, Assaad JM, Pihl RO, Benkelfat C, Leyton M, Diksic M, Tremblay RE, Dagher A (2003) Alcohol promotes dopamine release in the human nucleus accumbens. Synapse 49:226–231PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brodie MS, Pesold C, Appel SB (1999) Ethanol directly excites dopaminergic ventral tegmental area reward neurons. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 23(11):1848–1852PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dahchour A, Quertemont E, De Witte P (1996) Taurine increases in the nucleus accumbens microdialysate after acute ethanol administration to naive and chronically alcoholised rats. Brain Res 735:9–19PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. De Witte P, Dahchour A, Quertemont E (1994) Acute and chronic alcohol injections increase taurine in the nucleus accumbens. Alcohol Alcohol Suppl 2:229–233PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. DiChiara G, Imperato A (1988) Drugs abused by humans preferentially increase synaptic dopamine concentrations in the mesolimbic system of freely moving rats. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 85:5274–5278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Drevets WC, Price JC, Kupfer DJ, Kinahan PE, Lopresti B, Holt D, Mathis C (1999) PET measures of amphetamine-induced dopamine release in ventral versus dorsal striatum. Neuropsychopharmacology 21(6):694–709PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ericson M, Molander A, Löf E, Engel JA, Söderpalm B (2003) Ethanol elevates accumbal dopamine levels via indirect activation of ventral tegmental nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Eur J Pharmacol 467:85–93PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Huxtable RJ (1992) Physiological actions of taurine. Physiol Rev 72:101–163PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Huxtable RJ (1989) Taurine in the central nervous system and the mammalian actions of taurine. Prog Neurobiol 32:471–533PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Iwata H, Matsuda T, Lee E, Yamagami S, Baba A (1980) Effect of ethanol on taurine concentration in the brain. Experientia 36:332–333PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kimelberg HK, Cheema M, O’Connor ER, Tong H, Goderie SK, Rossman PA (1993) Ethanol-induced aspartate and taurine release from primary astrocyte cultures. J Neurochem 60:1682–1689PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Koob GF (1992) Neural mechanisms of drug reinforcement. In: Kalivas PW, Samson HH (eds) The neurobiology of drug and alcohol addiction, vol 654. The New York Academy of Sciences, New York, pp 171–191Google Scholar
  15. Korpi ER, Oja SS (1983) Characteristics of taurine release from cerebral cortex slices induced by sodium-deficient media. Brain Res 289:197–204PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Larsson A, Edström L, Svensson L, Söderpalm B, Engel JA (2005) Voluntary ethanol intake increases extracellular acetylcholine levels in the ventral tegmental area in the rat. Alcohol Alcohol 40:349–358PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lidö HH, Stomberg R, Fagerberg A, Ericson M, Söderpalm B (2009) Glycine reuptake inhibition: a novel principle for prevention of ethanol-induced dopamine release. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 33(7):1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McBride WJ, Murphy JM, Ikemoto S (1999) Localization of brain reinforcement mechanisms: intracranial self-administration and intracranial place-conditioning studies. Behav Brain Res 101(2):129–152PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Molander A, Söderpalm B (2005a) Glycine receptors regulate dopamine release in the rat nucleus accumbens. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 29:17–26PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Molander A, Söderpalm B (2005b) Accumbal strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors: an access point for ethanol to the brain reward system. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 29:27–37PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Olive MF (2002) Interactions between taurine and ethanol in the central nervous system. Amino Acids 23:345–357PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pan ZH, Slaughter MM (1995) Comparison of the actions of glycine and related amino acida on isolated third order neurons from the tiger salamander retina. Neuroscience 64:153–164PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Quertemont E, Devitgh A, De Witte P (2003) Systemic osmotic manipulations modulate ethanol induced taurine release: a brain microdialysis study. Alcohol 29:11–19PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Quertemont E, Goffaux V, Vlaminck AM, Wolf C, De Witte P (1998) Oral taurine supplementation modulates ethanol-conditioned stimulus preference. Alcohol 16:201–206PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Saransaari P, Oja SS (2000) Taurine and neural cell damage. Amino Acids 19:509–526PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sergeeva OA, Haas HL (2001) Expression and function of glycine receptors in striatal cholinergic interneurons from rat and mouse. Neuroscience 104(4):1043–1055PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Söderpalm B, Löf E, Ericson M (2009) Mechanistic studies of ethanol´s interaction with the mesolimbic dopamine reward system. Pharmacopsychiatry 42(Suppl 1):S87–S94PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Spanagel R (2009) Alcoholism: a systems approach from molecular physiology to addictive behavior. Physiol Rev 89(2):649–705PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wise RA, Rompre PP (1989) Brain dopamine and reward. Annu Rev Psychol 40:191–225PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mia Ericson
    • 1
    Email author
  • PeiPei Chau
    • 1
  • Louise Adermark
    • 1
  • Bo Söderpalm
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Addiction Biology Unit, Section of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry, Institute of Neuroscience and PhysiologyThe Sahlgrenska Academy at University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.BeroendeklinikenSahlgrenska University HospitalGothenburgSweden

Personalised recommendations