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Mouse Study Identifies Possible Alcoholism Genes

Researchers say findings may pave way for large-scale genomic screening approaches in humans

FRIDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- Gene expression studies of nine mouse strains have identified a number of candidate genes that may be involved in excessive alcohol consumption, according to a study published April 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study advances the understanding of the biological underpinnings of human alcoholism, the authors report.

Susan Bergeson, Ph.D., of the University of Texas in Austin, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of brain gene expression data from mouse strains that vary in their voluntary alcohol consumption. The mice had not been exposed to alcohol, so the gene expression reflected a genetic predisposition for alcohol preference.

Mice with high or low alcohol preference had consistently different expression of genes and biological pathways, and high preference was associated with higher expression of some genes. Seventy-five genes with the largest changes in expression were found in chromosomal regions previously shown to be associated with human alcoholism. An analysis of mouse chromosome 9 revealed 20 specific candidate genes as regulators of alcohol preference.

"These genes and most of the key functional groups revealed by the current study indicate our ignorance about the molecular mechanisms driving alcohol consumption and, most importantly, the opportunities to reveal mechanisms through large-scale genomic screening approaches," the authors conclude.

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