Laboratory of Psychopharmacology and Behavior, Basic Sciences Institute of Health, Graduate Program in Biological Sciences: Neuroscience, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS 90050-170, Brazil; Graduate Program in Biological Sciences: Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Basic Sciences Institute of Health, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS 90050-170, Brazil; Zebrafish Neuroscience Research Consortium (ZNRC), Los Angeles, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
Alcohol abuse is a highly prevalent condition that substantially contributes to global morbidity and mortality. Most available pharmacological treatments offer little efficacy as relapse rates are high, due in part to the symptoms experienced during abstinence. The roles of oxidative stress and glutamatergic transmission in alcohol withdrawal have been demonstrated in several studies, suggesting that restoration of oxidative status and glutamatergic function may represent a new pharmacological target to prevent the behavioral and biochemical alterations observed during withdrawal. A well-known antioxidant and glutamatergic modulator, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), has shown promise in treating a variety of psychiatric conditions, including substance use disorders, and is a promising molecule in the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate whether NAC is able to prevent the expression of behavioral and biochemical alterations induced by ethanol withdrawal in chronically exposed zebrafish. Animals were exposed to ethanol (1% v/v, 20 min) or control water, followed by treatment with NAC (1 mg/L, 10 min) or control water daily for 8 days; 24 h later, experimental animals were submitted to the novel tank test (NTT). Ethanol withdrawal decreased the distance traveled and increased the number of immobile episodes, indicating locomotor deficits; moreover, withdrawal decreased the number of entries and time spent in the top area, while increasing time spent in the bottom area, indicating anxiety-like behavior. Alcohol withdrawal also increased lipid peroxidation (TBARS) and decreased non-protein reduced sulfhydryl (NPSH) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) activities. NAC attenuated these locomotor deficits and prevented the manifestation of anxiety-like behavior as well as the oxidative damage observed following ethanol withdrawal. Given its favorable safety profile, additional clinical and preclinical studies are warranted to unravel the long-term effects of NAC in the context of alcohol abuse and the exact mechanisms involved. Nevertheless, our study adds to the existing body of evidence supporting the clinical evaluation of NAC in substance abuse disorders.