Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is likely the main endogenous anxiolytic neuromodulator involved in alcohol intake. NPY-Y1, a receptor for NPY, is highly expressed in the periaqueductal gray (PAG), a mesencephalic structure involved in integrating nervous activity to the performance of active and passive defensive behaviors related to fear and anxiety. Interestingly, anxiety and fear are some of the prevailing emotional negative states during alcohol abstinence. Moreover, an inverse relationship between NPY activity and alcohol consumption has been frequently reported, mainly in the extended amygdala. Nevertheless, both the roles of NPY and that of the receptor involved in these actions have been scarcely studied. Thus, the aim of this study was to analyze the pharmacological effect of NPY and NPY-Y1 receptor blockade into the dorsal periaqueductal gray (D-PAG) in an alcohol consumption and relapse paradigm in adult male Wistar rats. Ninety-six rats at postnatal day 42 (PND-42) were classified as having low and high anxiety (LA and HA), respectively, through the elevated plus maze test (EPM). Then, those animals were randomly divided into alcohol naïve (AN) and forced alcohol consumption (FAC) groups. A cannula was implanted in D-PAG to microinject vehicle (VEH), NPY, or BIBP-3226 (a selective NPY-Y1 receptor antagonist). A defensive burying behavior test (DBB) was performed to assess the anxiety-like state during withdrawal, followed by a 24-hour free choice voluntary alcohol intake test. Under our experimental conditions, NPY microinjection decreased alcohol consumption in HA rats, whereas NPY-Y1 receptor blockade in D-PAG produced a notably anxiogenic effect and higher alcohol intake and relapse. In conclusion, NPY in the D-PAG, most likely acting on NPY-Y1 receptors, induced a significant anxiolytic effect and prominently inhibited alcohol consumption and relapse in Wistar rats.
- Periaqueductal gray