Alcohol dependence may result from neuroadaptation involving alteration of gene expression after long-term alcohol exposure. The systematic study of gene expression profiles of the human alcoholic brain was initiated using the method of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-differential display and was followed by DNA microarray. To date, more than 100 alcohol-responsive genes have been identified from the frontal cortex, motor cortex and nucleus accumbens of the human brain. These genes have a wide range of functions in the brain and indicate diverse actions of alcohol on neuronal function. This review discusses the current information on the genetic basis of alcoholism and the induction and characterization of these alcohol-responsive genes.