Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Alcohol-dependence gene linked to neurotransmitter

Date:
August 27, 2014
Source:
Scripps Research Institute
Summary:
Scientists have solved the mystery of why a specific signaling pathway can be associated with alcohol dependence. The new research shows the gene, Nf1, regulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that lowers anxiety and increases relaxation feelings.

Pietro Paolo Sanna, MD, is an associate professor at The Scripps Research Institute.
Credit: Photo courtesy of The Scripps Research Institute

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have solved the mystery of why a specific signaling pathway can be associated with alcohol dependence.

This signaling pathway is regulated by a gene, called neurofibromatosis type 1 (Nf1), which TSRI scientists found is linked with excessive drinking in mice. The new research shows Nf1 regulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that lowers anxiety and increases feelings of relaxation.

"This novel and seminal study provides insights into the cellular mechanisms of alcohol dependence," said TSRI Associate Professor Marisa Roberto, a co-author of the paper. "Importantly, the study also offers a correlation between rodent and human data."

In addition to showing that Nf1 is key to the regulation of the GABA, the research, which was published recently in the journal Biological Psychiatry, shows that variations in the human version of the Nf1 gene are linked to alcohol-dependence risk and severity in patients.

Pietro Paolo Sanna, associate professor at TSRI and the study's corresponding author, was optimistic about the long-term clinical implications of the work. "A better understanding of the molecular processes involved in the transition to alcohol dependence will foster novel strategies for prevention and therapy," he said.

A Genetic Culprit

Researchers have long sought a gene or genes that might be responsible for risk and severity of alcohol dependence. "Despite a significant genetic contribution to alcohol dependence, few risk genes have been identified to date, and their mechanisms of action are generally poorly understood," said TSRI Staff Scientist Vez Repunte-Canonigo, co-first author of the paper with TSRI Research Associate Melissa Herman.

This research showed that Nf1 is one of those rare risk genes, but the TSRI researchers weren't sure exactly how Nf1 affected the brain. The TSRI research team suspected that Nf1 might be relevant to alcohol-related GABA activity in an area of the brain called the central amygdala, which is important in decision-making and stress- and addiction-related processes.

"As GABA release in the central amygdala has been shown to be critical in the transition from recreational drinking to alcohol dependence, we thought that Nf1 regulation of GABA release might be relevant to alcohol consumption," said Herman.

The team tested several behavioral models, including a model in which mice escalate alcohol drinking after repeated withdrawal periods, to study the effects of partially deleting Nf1. In this experiment, which simulated the transition to excessive drinking that is associated with alcohol dependence in humans, they found that mice with functional Nf1 genes steadily increased their ethanol intake starting after just one episode of withdrawal. Conversely, mice with a partially deleted Nf1 gene showed no increase in alcohol consumption.

Investigating further, the researchers found that in mice with partially deleted Nf1 genes, alcohol consumption did not further increase GABA release in the central amygdala. In contrast, in mice with functional Nf1 genes, alcohol consumption resulted in an increase in central amygdala GABA.

In the second part of the study, a collaboration with a distinguished group of geneticists at various U.S. institutions, the team analyzed data on human variations of the Nf1 gene from about 9,000 people. The results showed an association between the gene and alcohol-dependence risk and severity.

The team sees the new findings as "pieces to the puzzle." Sanna believes future research should focus on exactly how Nf1 regulates the GABA system and how gene expression may be altered during early development.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Scripps Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vez Repunte-Canonigo, Melissa Herman, Tomoya Kawamura, Henry R. Kranzler, Richard Sherva, Joel Gelernter, Lindsay A. Farrer, Marisa Roberto, Pietro Paolo Sanna. Nf1 regulates alcohol dependence-associated excessive drinking and GABA release in the central amygdala in mice, and is associated with alcohol dependence in humans.. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.07.031

Cite This Page:

Scripps Research Institute. "Alcohol-dependence gene linked to neurotransmitter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140827141408.htm>.
Scripps Research Institute. (2014, August 27). Alcohol-dependence gene linked to neurotransmitter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140827141408.htm
Scripps Research Institute. "Alcohol-dependence gene linked to neurotransmitter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140827141408.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

Buzz60 (Oct. 15, 2014) A Google Glass user was treated for Internet Addiction Disorder caused from overuse of the device. Morgan Manousos (@MorganManousos) has the details on how many hours he spent wearing the glasses, and what his symptoms were. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins