Ethanol consumption and reward are decreased in μ-opiate receptor knockout mice

F. S. Hall, I. Sora, G. R. Uhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Rationale: Differences in μ-opiate receptor (MOR) gene expression may modulate the rewarding effects of ethanol. Objective: The effects of MOR gene knockout (KO) were examined in wild-type (+/+), heterozygote MOR KO (+/-), and homozygote MOR KO (-/-) mice on voluntary ethanol consumption, conditioned place preference produced by ethanol, and locomotor responses to ethanol in separate groups of mice. Methods: Voluntary ethanol consumption (2-32% v/v) was examined in a two-bottle home-cage consumption test. The conditioned place preference paradigm was a biased design. Mice received four pairings of ethanol (2.0 g/kg IP) on the initially preferred side and four pairings on the initially non-preferred side with saline. The difference in time spent on the initially non-preferred side (pre- versus post-conditioning) was the measure of drug-induced preference. After habituation to a novel locomotor test chamber mice were tested, on subsequent sessions, for ethanol induced locomotion (0.0, 0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 g/kg IP). Results: Heterozygous and homozygous MOR KO mice consumed less ethanol than wild-type mice. These effects appeared to be greater in female KO mice than in male KO mice. MOR KO mice, especially females, exhibited less ethanol reward in a conditioned place preference paradigm. These effects on ethanol reward were produced by reductions in MOR expression levels as small as 50%. MOR KO mice exhibited less ethanol-stimulated locomotion than did wild-type mice, an effect that was also largest in females. Conclusions: These data fit with the reported therapeutic efficacy of MOR antagonists in the treatment of human alcoholism. Allelic variants that confer differing levels of MOR expression could provide different degrees of risk for alcoholism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • μ-Opiate receptor
  • Conditioned place preference
  • Ethanol
  • Reward
  • Transgenic mice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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