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Sequence variation in the alpha synuclein gene contributes to alcohol craving

  • The protein alpha synuclein (SNCA) plays an important role in the regulation of dopamine function.
  • Craving is a common symptom in alcoholics.
  • New findings show that sequence variation in the gene that encodes SNCA contributes to whether or not an individual craves or does not crave alcohol.
The protein alpha synuclein (SNCA) plays an important role in the regulation of dopamine function. SNCA mutations can lead to significant problems, such as the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson's disease, which is caused by a substantially reduced production of dopamine. New findings show that sequence variation in the SNCA gene also contributes to whether or not an individual craves or does not crave alcohol.

Results are published in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Several years ago," explained Tatiana M. Foroud, director of the division of hereditary genomics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, "animal researchers identified a gene called SNCA, which appeared to contribute to the alcohol-drinking patterns of specially bred rats. Further studies have shown that different levels of SNCA exist in the brains of rodents that prefer alcohol versus those who do not like alcohol."

Since then, added corresponding-author Foroud, human research has suggested that SNCA might be important in determining an individual's craving for alcohol. "Using previous research as a building base," she said, "we utilized a large sample, a different type of analysis technique, and genotyped more sequence variants in the gene to provide a more comprehensive survey of the role of this gene in the craving for alcohol and alcoholism."

Foroud and her colleagues examined a sample of 219 alcoholic families of European American descent. Thirty single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped across the SNCA gene
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26-Mar-2007


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