Page URL:

The alcohol gene? Mice with mutation hit the bottle

2 December 2013
Appeared in BioNews 733

A gene mutation has been linked to alcohol preference in lab mice, a team of researchers from five UK universities has found.

The study, published in Nature Communications, found that when offered the choice between water and diluted alcohol, 'normal' mice drank water. However, mice with a mutation in the Gabrb1 gene drank from the bottle of alcohol 85 percent of the time.

The mice with the gene mutation worked harder than other mice to get at the alcohol - about the strength of wine - by pushing a lever. They continued to work for longer than the other mice until they had consumed so much alcohol that they had difficulties in coordinating their movements.

Dr Quentin Anstee, consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University and joint lead author, said: 'It's amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviours like alcohol consumption'.

Gabrb1 codes for a component of a protein receptor present in a region of the brain that controls pleasurable emotions and reward, the nucleus accumbens. The receptor responds to a neurotransmitter called GABA, a chemical that carries messages between brain cells. The researchers found that the gene mutation caused the receptor to act as if it was constantly stimulated, even in the absence of GABA.

The researchers say that a similar mechanism is present in humans and this study could help to identify those most at risk of developing an addiction and ensure they receive the most effective treatment.

Professor Hugh Perry, chair of the MRC's Neurosciences and Mental Health Board, said: 'Alcohol addiction places a huge burden on the individual, their family and wider society. There's still a great deal we don't understand about how and why consumption progresses into addiction, but the results of this long-running project suggest that, in some individuals, there may be a genetic component'.

Could YOU have the binge drinking gene? Scientists discover some animals are wired to prefer the taste of alcohol to water
Mail Online |  26 November 2013
Gene could raise alcoholism risk
The Telegraph |  26 November 2013
Gene mutation can cause excessive alcohol drinking
Imperial College London (press release) |  26 November 2013
Mutations in the Gabrb1 gene promote alcohol consumption through increased tonic inhibition
Nature Communications |  26 November 2013
'Single fault' in one gene can lead to alcohol addiction in laboratory mice
Independent |  26 November 2013
23 November 2015 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
A common mutation in a serotonin receptor gene has been linked to impulsive and aggressive behaviours, particularly under the influence of alcohol...
8 December 2014 - by Jenny Sharpe 
Alcohol dependence may be determined by a set of genes that work together as a network, according to a US study...
1 September 2014 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Mice lacking a gene called NF1 are less prone to excessive drinking in an animal model, scientists have found. When the researchers looked at the same gene in humans, they found that variations in NF1 are linked with increased risk and severity of alcoholism...
21 July 2014 - by Fiona Ibanichuka 
Genetically mutated worms, unable to become intoxicated by alcohol, have been created by neuroscientists...
14 July 2014 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
Even light alcohol consumption is a risk for cardiovascular health, a genetic study has found, contradicting previous reports that moderate drinking can be beneficial for the heart...
2 July 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
A gene that codes for nicotine antibodies has been successful in immunising mice against the drug's effects. But although the treatment appears to work in mice, any 'smoking vaccine' is still a long way off...
18 July 2011 - by Chris Chatterton 
Scottish scientists have identified a genetic region that may have a role to play in why humans crave 'fatty foods'. The researchers, from Aberdeen University, identified a DNA region close to the galanin (GAL) gene that helps to regulate the production of this protein...
25 October 2010 - by Rosemary Paxman and Dr Vivienne Raper 
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...
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...
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.