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Alcohol's effects on gene expression in the central nervous system

tegmental areas show that distinct biological pathways are associated with alcohol's action in specific brain regions and certain mouse strains.

"We were able to use gene expression profiling to determine that alcohol produces multiple effects on different biological processes," said McBride, "and that these changes are different in several brain regions which may be involved in alcohol addiction."

  • Researchers have identified individual genes and gene networks that may play an important role in determining the behavioral responses to alcohol as well as possibly influencing drinking behavior.

    "Thus far, genes that appear to be responsive to alcohol include genes involved in the intracellular signaling process (which can alter how the neuron functions), neuropeptide signaling (which modulates nerve cell activity), and myelin structure (which is needed for communication between nerve cells)," said McBride. "Gene expression profiling has also been used to identify chromosomes and chromosomal regions that influence alcohol drinking and response to alcohol."

  • Intracranial self-administration of ethanol into the posterior ventral tegmental area (VTA) of alcohol-preferring rats produced results suggesting that the reinforcing effects of alcohol are activating VTA dopamine neurons and producing changes in synaptic connections that resemble those that occur in memory and learning.

    "Learning and memory require enhanced synaptic function between neurons," explained McBride. "Enhanced synaptic function is characterized by increased formation of synaptic proteins. The stimulation of VTA dopamine neurons by alcohol increases the expression of genes involved in the synthesis of synaptic proteins in target regions of the VTA. In short, these results suggest that alcohol can produce changes in the brain reward system that can further increase the rewarding effects of alcohol."

  • Microarray techniques confirmed e
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  • 14-Feb-2005


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