Page URL:

Gene clue to social drinking habits

21 March 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 300

A person's drinking habits, and possibly their tendency to become addicted to alcohol, may be influenced by differences in a key brain chemical gene, say UK researchers. Scientists based at the Universities of Bristol and Oxford found that people with a particular version of the DRD2 gene drink less alcohol, confirming an earlier Finnish study. The gene variant's effect was stronger in men than in women, say the team, who published their findings in the Pharmacogenomics Journal.

The researchers studied the DRD2 gene type of nearly 1000 people, who all gave detailed information on their drinking habits. 'Our study suggests that there's a genetic basis to certain kinds of behaviour, including alcohol consumption', said team leader Marcus Munafo, adding that such differences 'may be important in influencing whether people are at an increased risk of alcohol dependence'. Understanding genetic influences is important for understanding why some more people are more likely to become addicted to alcohol, the scientists say.

Previous studies have shown that a tendency to become addicted to alcohol is influenced by genes, as well as non-genetic factors such as upbringing. Alcohol and other drugs are thought to exert their effects by triggering the brain's 'reward' chemical dopamine, produced naturally in response to food and sex. The DRD2 gene makes a receptor protein that sticks to dopamine, enabling brain cells to receive 'pleasure' messages. People with a particular version of DRD2 may be less responsive to the alcohol-triggered effects of dopamine, and so will drink less, whereas those with a different version of this gene may get more of a 'high' from alcohol, and so will drink more.

Another version of the DRD2 gene have been implicated in smoking behaviour, and the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapies, a team based at the University of Oxford reported last year.

Drinking habits may be in our genes
The Daily Telegraph |  17 March 2005
Genes for alcohol consumption identified
Medical News Today |  17 March 2005
Genes link to alcohol consumption
BBC News Online |  17 March 2005
1 May 2009 - by Adam Fletcher 
Neuroscientists at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Ernest Gallo Research Center, Emeryville, US, have published a study in the journal Cell describing a new gene that influences ethanol sensitivity in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The work offers tantalising hope that the same regulatory...
20 October 2008 - by Lorna Stewart 
Research published in the journal Science last week shows links between a common genetic variation, brain activity, BMI and long-term weight gain. Other recent studies have suggested that obese people may experience less pleasure when eating and eat more to compensate, but this is the first study...
2 June 2008 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
An international team of scientists has found that the genes that help the body break down alcohol also influence a person's risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat and oesophagus. The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, looked at six variants of the alcohol dehydrogenase...
18 November 2004 - by BioNews 
US researchers have discovered that some people may drink more alcohol than others because of genetic differences that affect their taste buds. The scientists, based at the University of Conneticut, say their findings could help explain differences in people's drinking behaviour. The study focused on light to moderate drinkers, and...
9 September 2004 - by BioNews 
US researchers have identified a gene linked to alcoholism and depression, the first to be associated with both conditions. Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine think that variations in a gene called CHRM2 either increase or decrease the likelihood that a person will be affected by one or...
22 March 2004 - by BioNews 
Women smokers with a particular genetic variation are more likely to benefit from nicotine patches when trying to quit than others, a new UK study suggests. Researchers at the University of Oxford studied 445 women and 307 men who had been heavy smokers, who were given either nicotine or control...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.