Switch From Moderate To Problem Drinking May Be Due To Genetics

Beer 030512 21Aug12

Those who make the transition from moderate drinkers to problem drinkers may have their DNA to thank, according to research conducted at the University of California-San Francisco.

The animal study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, isolated a protein - brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) - and tracked its relation to alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Researchers knew that BDNF increases when alcohol is consumed in moderation, but discovered that when mice were dosed with excessive amounts of alcohol, they were discovered to have decreased BDNF in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a brain region associated with decision making.

One reason for the increase was a corresponding increase in genetic material microRNA, including miR-30a-5p. When miR-30a-5p was increased, BDNF went down and the mice wanted to drink more; conversely, when miR-30-5p was inhibited, the drinking behaviors of the mice did as well.

"Our results suggest BDNF protects against the transition from moderate to uncontrolled drinking and alcohol use disorders," said Dorit Ron, senior author of the study.

"When there is a breakdown in this protective pathway, however, uncontrolled excessive drinking develops, and microRNAs are a possible mechanism in this breakdown. This mechanism may be one possible explanation as to why 10 percent of the population develop alcohol use disorders and this study may be helpful for the development of future medications to treat this devastating disease."

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