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The glutamate decarboxylase 1 gene may play a pivotal role in developing alcoholism

  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
  • An enzyme called glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) is involved in the synthesis of GABA.
  • Results indicate that the GAD1 gene may play a role in the development of alcoholism as well as the outcome of alcohol withdrawal.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA has been implicated in the development of alcoholism, although the mechanisms through which this occurs are unclear. A recent "association" study has found that an enzyme called glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) which is involved in the synthesis of GABA may play a significant role.

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

"GABA's main function is to inhibit excitatory neuro-activities so that the brain can remain stable," said Andrew T.A. Cheng, Distinguished Research Fellow and professor at Academia Sinica in Taipei. "When one consumes alcohol, GABA levels rise in the brain, providing sedative effects. When one drinks regularly, a counter mechanism is set up until gradually, the ability to raise GABA is reduced. Defects in GABA synthesis may push one to drink more alcohol in order to treat abnormal physiology caused by low GABA Furthermore, individuals who release GABA slowly during alcohol consumption may consume more alcohol to reach its sedative effects, exposing themselves to a higher risk of alcohol dependence." Cheng is also the corresponding author for the study.

"This study takes a so-called candidate gene approach to explore the possible role of GABA in the development of alcoholism," observed Wei-Jen Chen, director of the Institute of Epidemiology at the National Taiwan University Hospital. "GAD has two forms, encoded by the GAD1 and GAD2 genes that are located in different chromosomes, and is involved in the production of
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24-Oct-2006


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