Gene variant, brain protein linked to compulsive drinking

Researchers were able to counteract the variance and return mice to moderate levels of drinking.

By Stephen Feller

SAN FRANCISCO, July 20 (UPI) -- Researchers found that a gene variant reducing a protein in mice brains causes them to consume excessive amounts of alcohol, even when that consumption leads to bad consequences.

The human version of this gene is linked to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.


"Genetic factors play a role in determining who develops alcohol problems," Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in a press release. "By understanding the genetic underpinnings of alcohol use disorder, we will be better able to develop targeted treatment and prevention strategies."

Researchers created mice with the Met68BDNF gene variant, which reduces the release of brain-derived neurotrophic, or BDNF, factor. In the study, mice with the variance, which reduces the release of BDNF, drank more alcohol, even when it spiked with bitter-tasting quinine.

Going a step further, researchers gave the mice with the variant a compound called LM22A-4 that mimicked the action of BDNF, returning the mice to normal levels of drinking and stopping their compulsive-drinking tendencies.

The study is published in Biological Psychiatry.

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