Alcohol Consumption and the Body's Biological Clock

Authors

  • Rainer Spanagel,

    1. Department of Psychopharmacology (RS) and the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and Department of Addictive Behaviour and Addiction Medicine (GS), Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany; the Department of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, ME (AMR); and the Endocrinology Program, Department of Animal Sciences (DKS), Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ.
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  • Alan M. Rosenwasser,

    1. Department of Psychopharmacology (RS) and the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and Department of Addictive Behaviour and Addiction Medicine (GS), Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany; the Department of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, ME (AMR); and the Endocrinology Program, Department of Animal Sciences (DKS), Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ.
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  • Gunter Schumann,

    1. Department of Psychopharmacology (RS) and the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and Department of Addictive Behaviour and Addiction Medicine (GS), Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany; the Department of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, ME (AMR); and the Endocrinology Program, Department of Animal Sciences (DKS), Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ.
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  • Dipak K. Sarkar

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychopharmacology (RS) and the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and Department of Addictive Behaviour and Addiction Medicine (GS), Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany; the Department of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, ME (AMR); and the Endocrinology Program, Department of Animal Sciences (DKS), Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ.
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  • Supported by National Institutes of Health grant AA R21 AA013893 (AMR); National Institutes of Health grants R01 AA12642 and AA0875 (DKS); and DFG, BMBF, and EU (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bundeministerium für Bildung und Forschung, and European Union) grants (RS, GS).

Reprint requests: Dipak K. Sarkar, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Endocrinology Program and Biomedical Division of the Center of Alcohol Studies, 84 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8525; Fax: 732-932-4134; E-mail: sarkar@aesop.rutgers.edu

Abstract

This review summarizes new findings on the bidirectional interactions between alcohol and the clock genes, underlying the generation of circadian rhythmicity. At the behavioral level, both adult and perinatal ethanol treatments alter the free-running period and light response of the circadian clock in rodents; genetic ethanol preference in alcohol-preferring rat lines is also associated with alterations in circadian pacemaker function. At the neuronal level, it has been shown that ethanol consumption alters the circadian expression patterns of period (per) genes in various brain regions, including the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Notably, circadian functions of β-endorphin–containing neurons that participate in the control of alcohol reinforcement become disturbed after chronic alcohol intake. In turn, per2 gene activity regulates alcohol intake through its effects on the glutamatergic system through glutamate reuptake mechanisms and thereby may affect a variety of physiological processes that are governed by our internal clock. In summary, a new pathologic chain has been identified that contributes to the negative health consequences of chronic alcohol intake. Thus, chronic alcohol intake alters the expression of per genes, and, as a consequence, a variety of neurochemical and neuroendocrine functions become disturbed. Further steps in this pathologic chain are alterations in physiological and immune functions that are under circadian control, and, as a final consequence, addictive behavior might be triggered or sustained by this cascade.

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