Alcohol and Epigenetics

A recent article in the Journal of Neuroscience provides insight as to why alcoholics may experience withdrawl anxiety. Neuroscientifically Challenged explains:

Previous research has pointed to the importance of a neuropeptide transmitter called neuropeptide Y (NPY) in managing anxiety, and in modulating alcohol consumption. Low levels of NPY, specifically in the amygdala, have been found in animals that have a preference for alcohol. Additionally, knockout mice who are engineered to lack NPY receptors exhibit an increased proclivity for alcohol.

The aforementioned study explores how those changes occur via epigenetic mechanisms. Epigenetics, literally “on top of” or “in addition to” genetics, studies how genetic packaging affects gene (and subsequently protein) expression.

There are two general avenues of investigation. The first is chromatin remodeling and the second individual gene promoter methylation. These investigators focused on the former.

The complex of DNA and associated nuclear proteins is called chromatin. Chromatin can be densely packed to minimize gene expression or loosely packed to maximize it. Histones, the proteins the DNA wraps around, are methylated when “closed” and acetylated when “open”.

Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACs) remove acetyl groups from the histones and lead to a general downregulation in gene expression. The investigators found that alcohol inhibits HDACs and subsequently upregulates NPY gene expression in areas where it has an anxiolytic capacity. Withdrawl, then, upregulated HDACs, downregulated NPY, and caused stress. Administration of a HDAC inhibitor before and during the withdrawl eliminated observable stress.

There are claims that they may have found a novel treatment for alcoholism. I, however, remain skeptical. The anxiolytic effect of the HDAC inhibitor probably has to do with an upregulation of GABA (the primary inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain) since it is widely reported that HDAC inhibitors have an effect on GABAergic transmission. HDACs are are just too unspecific and, in many ways, carpet bomb gene expression at large. NPY, while certainly a significant part of the picture, may be overshadowed by the HDAC inhibitor induced GABA upregulation.

Nonetheless, it’s a noteworthy article.

Advertisements

5 Responses to “Alcohol and Epigenetics”


  1. 1 huntington beach water damage restoration June 1, 2013 at 3:15 am

    It’s actually a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this useful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  2. 2 jaluzele rulouri June 2, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Hi to every , as I am genuinely eager of reading this
    website’s post to be updated regularly. It carries pleasant information.

  3. 3 Web Page July 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You’re wonderful!
    Thanks!

  4. 4 web page July 26, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest
    but your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later. All the best

  5. 5 amazon coupon July 31, 2013 at 11:59 am

    This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined
    your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post.
    Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s





%d bloggers like this: