Gene May be Linked to Alcoholism and Depression

Finding could help identify those at risk of either condition

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 8, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A gene that may be linked to both alcoholism and depression has been identified by a team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

This is the first study to identify a specific gene associated with both conditions. The findings appear in the September issue of Human Molecular Genetics.

The researchers analyzed DNA from 2,310 people from 262 families in which at least three family members were alcoholics. They also examined DNA from people with depression.

The study found that one region on chromosome 7 looked remarkably similar in most alcoholics and in most people with depression. The researchers then tried to isolate a specific key gene in that region. That led them to CHRM2, a gene that's related to a cellular receptor involved in a number of important brain functions such as learning, memory, attention and cognition, the researchers said.

Normal variations in this gene either protect a person or make an individual more susceptible to alcoholism and/or depression, the researchers believe.

"Clinicians have observed a connection between these two disorders for years, so we are excited to have found what could be a molecular underpinning for that association," principal investigator Alison M Goate, a professor of genetics and professor of neurology, said in a prepared statement.

She and her team now plan to identify specific variants of CHRM2 that lead to individual differences for risk of alcoholism and/or depression.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, news release; Sept. 2, 2004,
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