Running Head: GENETIC DETERMINATION OF ALCOHOLISM
The Genetic Determination of Alcoholism:
A Perspective From Inside and Out
Kevin A. Hutten
Alcoholism is a complex genetic trait; multiple genes of small effect influence susceptibility to alcohol abuse. These influences include variants of enzymes ADH and ALDH, which contain coding and noncoding regions that also have an impact on the dependence of alcohol.
Recently, attempts to identify the specific genes that allow for risk or protection from alcohol's effects have been undertaken. These studies have used methods based on gene sequence polymorphisms (SNPs), studies of causes for gene expression, and the use of candidate gene targeting to establish if a gene will help or hinder the ethanol metabolism. Depending on the ADH or ALDH variants, the levels of oxidation of toxic substance acetaldehyde to acetate will directly affect the risk level of alcohol abuse. An ALDH2 variant results in a specific SNP and stops oxidation completely, resulting in a faster flush and hangover reaction. This variant is common in Eastern Asian populations and reduces alcoholic risk. Studies reviewed here also discuss many genes affecting alcohol sensitivity, tolerance, reward, and withdrawal severity. To pursue mechanistic studies, genetic animal models have been used. These models are partial, each addressing one or more of the contributing traits rather than the disease as a whole. Animal studies have modeled rewarding effects of alcohol and other drugs, the development of tolerance, and the behavioral responses that occur after the animal is differentially reared in a specific type of environment. More recent studies have shown that the novelty-seeking trait of type II alcoholism is directly linked to drug seeking habits.
Genes to Genomics
October 29, 2008
The Genetic Determination of Alcoholism: A Perspective From Inside and Out
Alcoholism is a heterogeneous...