Genes and Gene Expression in the Brains of Human Alcoholics


Address for correspondence: Peter R. Dodd, Ph.D., School of Molecular and Microbial Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia. fax: +61-7-3365-4699.


Abstract: Chronic alcohol misuse by human subjects leads to neuronal loss in regions such as the superior frontal cortex (SFC). Propensity to alcoholism is associated with several genes. γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor expression differs between alcoholics and controls, whereas glutamate receptor differences are muted. We determined whether genotype differentiated the regional presentation of GABAA and glutamate-NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) receptors in SFC. Autopsy tissue was obtained from alcoholics without comorbid disease, alcoholics with liver cirrhosis, and matched controls. ADH1C, DRD2B, EAAT2, and APOE genotypes modulated GABAA-β subunit protein expression in SFC toward a less-effective form of the receptor. Most genotypes did not divide alcoholics and controls on glutamate-NMDA receptor pharmacology, although gender and cirrhosis did. Genotype may affect amino acid transmission locally to influence neuronal vulnerability.