The goal of my research is to elucidate the molecular basis of behavior. I am interested in the mechanisms that mediate alcohol and nicotine addiction separately, and those that are involved in alcohol and nicotine co-addiction. Alcohol and nicotine are two commonly used drugs, and addiction to both drugs is very prevalent. Alcohol and nicotine addiction have overlapping molecular mechanisms, and identifying these mechanisms will enable us to understand why these drugs are co-abused and to identify new molecular targets for treatment. We use a wide range of molecular and behavioral tools including transgenic mouse models, viral genetic manipulations, pharmacological tools and behavioral assays in mouse models of drug addiction.
A major focus in the lab is the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and how different nicotinic receptor subtypes mediate aspects of co-addiction. These receptors are widely expressed ligand-gated ion channels that are primarily found on pre-synaptic terminals and on neuronal cell bodies, and thus are poised to modulate neurotransmission and regulate neural circuits. As such, nAChRs are implicated in alcohol and nicotine addiction, anxiety, depression and learning/memory. Our goal is to identify how different nAChR subtypes, and how regulation of nAChRs can affect neuronal activity, circuit function and behavior.
We currently have several projects that focus on nAChRs in addiction: 1) Cholinergic regulation of alcohol aversion. A major project in our lab is to determine how the nAChRs mediate alcohol reward, aversion and consumption. Our recent work has uncovered a novel role for the nAChRs in alcohol aversion, and our goal is to identify the neuronal circuit and nAChR subtype that is involved. 2) Sex dependent regulation of nAChR gene expression. We recently discovered that the alpha6 and beta3 nAChR subtype are regulated by protein kinase C epsilon and sex hormones, resulting in oppositional expression of addiction-related behaviors in male versus female mice. Our goal is to determine how molecular regulation of these nAChR genes differs between sexes. 3) Altered abuse liability of electronic cigarette liquids. We are actively investigating whether the abuse liability of electronic cigarette liquid refills differs from nicotine alone, and whether this is modulated by flavors.
Lab website: https://sites.google.com/umn.edu/amleelab/home
(For a comprehensive list of recent publications, refer to PubMed, a service provided by the National Library of Medicine.)
- DeBaker MC, Robinson JM, Moen JK, Wickman K, Lee AM. Differential patterns of alcohol and nicotine intake: Combined alcohol and nicotine binge consumption behaviors in mice. Alcohol. 2019 Sep 23. pii: S0741-8329(19)30113-2.
- Touchette JC, Maertens JJ, Mason MM, O'Rourke KY, Lee AM. The nicotinic receptor drug sazetidine-A reduces alcohol consumption in mice without affecting concurrent nicotine consumption. Neuropharmacology. 2018 May 1;133:63-74.
- Eum S, Schneiderhan ME, Brown JT, Lee AM, Bishop JR. Pharmacogenetic evaluation to assess breakthrough psychosis with aripiprazole long-acting injection: a case report. BMC Psychiatry. 2017 Jul 3;17(1):238.
- Touchette JC, Lee AM. Assessing alcohol and nicotine co-consumption in mice. Oncotarget. 2017;8:5684-5685.
- O'Rourke KY, Touchette JC, Hartell EC, Bade EJ, Lee AM. Voluntary co-consumption of alcohol and nicotine: Effects of abstinence, intermittency, and withdrawal in mice. Neuropharmacology. 2016;109:236-246.
- Eum S, Lee AM, Bishop JR. Pharmacogenetic tests for antipsychotic medications: clinical implications and considerations. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2016;18:323-337.
- Lee AM, Wu D-F, Dadgar J, Wang D, McMahon T, Messing RO. Protein kinase C epsilon phosphorylates α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and promotes recovery from desensitization. Br J Pharmacol. 2015;172:430-441.
- Lee AM, Zou ME, Lim JP, Stecher J, McMahon T, Messing RO. Deletion of Prkcz increases intermittent ethanol consumption in mice. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014;38:170-8.
- Lee AM, Kanter BR, Wang D, Lim JP, Zou ME, Qiu C, McMahon T, Dadgar J, Fischbach-Weiss SC, Messing RO. Prkcz null mice show normal learning and memory. Nature. 2013;493:416-419.
Current Graduate Students:
Sarah Mulloy (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).
Margot DeBaker (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)
Janna Moen (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)