The Impact of Sex, Circadian Disruption, and the Clock∆19/∆19 Genotype on Alcohol Drinking in Mice
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Shift work is associated with increased alcohol drinking, more so in males than females, and is thought to be a coping mechanism for disrupted sleep cycles. However, little is presently known about the causal influence of circadian rhythm disruptions on sex differences in alcohol consumption. In this study, we disrupted circadian rhythms in female and male mice using both environmental (i.e., shifting diurnal cycles) and genetic (i.e., Clock∆19/∆19 mutation) manipulations, and measured changes in alcohol consumption and preference using a two-bottle choice paradigm. Alcohol consumption and preference, as well as food and water consumption, total caloric intake, and weight were assessed in adult female and male Clock∆19/∆19 mutant mice or wild-type (WT) litter-mates, housed under a 12-hour:12-hour light:dark (L:D) cycle or a shortened 10-hour:10-hour L:D cycle. Female WT mice (under both light cycles) increased their alcohol consumption and preference over time, a pattern not observed in male WT mice. Compared to WT mice, Clock∆19/∆19 mice displayed increased alcohol consumption and preference. Sex differences were not apparent in Clock∆19/∆19 mice, with or without shifting diurnal cycles. In conclusion, sex differences in alcohol consumption patterns are evident and increase with prolonged access to alcohol. Disrupting circadian rhythms by mutating the Clock gene greatly increases alcohol consumption and abolishes sex differences present in WT animals.