Page URL:

Genetic clue to holding your drink

25 October 2010
Appeared in BioNews 581

Scientists have found a genetic link to how easily people feel the effects of alcohol. The team, led by researchers from the University of North Carolina, tracked alcohol tolerance to the end of chromosome 10.

This part of the chromosome contains a gene called CYP2E1, which affects how readily people break down alcohol and how quickly they feel its effects. The researchers believe people who feel the effects of alcohol after only a few drinks could have 'tipsy' versions of CYP2E1 and other genes in the same area.

Researchers tested several hundred pairs of siblings with at least one alcoholic parent who also drank alcohol themselves, but were not dependent, BBC News reports.

The siblings were given grain alcohol mixed with soda and asked at regular intervals to describe the effects of the alcohol using certain phrases such as: I feel drunk, I don't feel drunk, I feel sleepy and I don't feel sleepy. The researchers compared the findings with the siblings' genetic test results to look for differences between their response to alcohol and single-letter variations in their DNA sequence.

'This finding is interesting because it hints at a totally new mechanism of how we perceive alcohol when we drink', Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen said in the Daily Mail.

CYP2E1, which works in the brain, encodes an enzyme able to metabolize alcohol. A further enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase works in the liver to break down most of the alcohol we consume. The team think CYP2E1 has a different mechanism to other enzymes and creates free radicals, which can harm brain cells.

The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

‘Drunk’ gene discovered by boffins
UK Press Association |  20 October 2010
Investigation into CYP2E1
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research |  19 October 2010
‘lightweight gene’ could make you get drunk more quickly
Metro |  19 October 2010
Tipsy after one drink? Just blame your parents’ genes say scientists
Daily Mail |  20 October 2010
‘Tipsy’ alcohol gene ‘could help curb alcoholism’
BBC News |  20 October 2010
21 July 2014 - by Fiona Ibanichuka 
Genetically mutated worms, unable to become intoxicated by alcohol, have been created by neuroscientists...
2 December 2013 - by Dr Naqash Raja 
A gene mutation has been linked to alcohol preference in lab mice, a team of researchers from five UK universities has found...
21 March 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
UK scientists have found 15 new genetic regions that may affect a person's risk of developing primary biliary cirrhosis, a chronic form of liver disease...
25 January 2010 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
New research has shown that drinking during pregnancy can cause permanent genetic changes to the DNA of the developing fetus. The findings, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, may aid in the development of a diagnosis for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)....
22 October 2009 - by Ben Jones 
A study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Medical School, US, has suggested that consumption of alcohol may be detrimental to chances of success in IVF treatment. Consumption of just six units of alcohol a week by both partners reduced the probability of conception by 26 per cent. The study particularly singled out apparent detrimental effects to drinking white wine in women and drinking beer for the male partners. In those women whose partner dran...
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...
26 August 2008 - by Katy Sinclair 
By Katy Sinclair: Researchers studying Australian groups of twins have established a link between heavy alcohol use and delayed pregnancy, in findings to be published in the journal 'Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research'. Mary Waldron, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine and corresponding author of the...
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.