Effects of acute alcohol withdrawal on nest building in mice selectively bred for alcohol withdrawal severity

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Nest building has been used to assess thermoregulatory behavior and positive motivational states in mice. There are known genetic influences on ethanol withdrawal severity as well as individual/thermoregulatory nest building. Withdrawal Seizure-Prone (WSP-1, WSP-2) and Withdrawal Seizure-Resistant (WSR-1, WSR-2) mice were selectively bred for high vs low handling-induced convulsion (HIC) severity, respectively, during withdrawal from chronic ethanol vapor inhalation. They also differ in HIC severity during withdrawal from an acute, 4 g/kg ethanol injection. In our initial study, withdrawal from an acute dose of ethanol dose-dependently impaired nest building over the initial 24 h of withdrawal in genetically segregating Withdrawal Seizure Control (WSC) mice. In two further studies, acute ethanol withdrawal suppressed nest building for up to two days in WSP-1 females. Deficits in nest building from ethanol were limited to the initial 10 h of withdrawal in WSR-1 females and to the initial 24 h of withdrawal in WSP-1 and WSR-1 males. Effects of ethanol on nest building for up to two days were found in WSP-2 and WSR-2 mice of both sexes. Nest building deficits in female mice from the first replicate could not be explained by a general decrease in locomotor behavior. These results suggest that nest building is a novel behavioral phenotype for indexing the severity of acute ethanol withdrawal, and that genes contributing to this trait differ from those affecting acute withdrawal HIC severity.