Aromatase Inhibition Modulates Anxiety-like behavior but not Alcohol Drinking Selectively in Adult Female Mice

Student Classification

Kailyn Sellers, 3rd-Year, Biology, Chemistry and Spanish Dr. Antoniette Maldonado-Devincci, Psychology

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


Binge drinking is a dangerous pattern of alcohol consumption that can contribute to a myriad of health complications and premature death. Epidemiological research shows that adult and adolescent males are more likely to engage in alcohol binge drinking compared to females, however, the gender gap in drinking is narrowing in recent years. Our work aimed to examine the modulatory role of aromatase, an enzyme critical for the conversion of testosterone to estradiol, to examine age and sex-specific changes in alcohol drinking and anxiety-like behavior in adolescent and adult mice. We used a 4-day cycle for observation of drinking patterns over three weeks for two hours of access to ethanol and water. We did not observe changes in voluntary alcohol drinking. However, we saw a robust change in anxiety-like behavior in adult female mice that had been exposed to letrozole (the aromatase inhibitor) compared to controls, adult male and adolescent female counterparts using the marble test as a proxy for this behavioral phenotype. Here, we discovered that adult females administered letrozole showed greater anxiety-like behavior after intermittent voluntary alcohol drinking compared to all other groups. Our study reveals that anxiety-like behavior is selectively modulated by aromatase inhibition in adult female mice, which may underlie sex differences in alcohol drinking phenotypes in adult mice. Adolescent mice likely have other mechanisms that mediate sex differences in alcohol drinking and anxiety-like behavior.

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