Genes — not one but over 900 — may decide your daily drinking habits, say researchers from Indiana and Purdue universities who have identified hundreds of genes that appear to play a role in increasing the desire to drink alcohol.
The study that used rats carefully bred to either drink large amounts of alcohol or to spurn it, reinforces the view that the genetics of alcoholism are important, are complex and involve many genes.
“This research highlights that alcoholism in rats has a strong genetic component and is influenced by many hundreds of genes, each with small effects. There is no single gene responsible for alcoholism,” explained William M Muir, professor of genetics in the department of animal sciences at Purdue.
“However, critical regulatory pathways involving several of the genes discovered were found, suggesting that potential pharmacological solutions may be possible,” he added in a paper published in the journal PLOS Genetics.
Although not identical to humans, the genetics of rats and mice often provide powerful clues to genetic activities in humans.
Conducting complete genome analyses of the two lines of rats, the researchers identified key regions of genetic code known as signatures of selection in 930 genes associated with alcohol preference.
The majority of the areas were within single gene regions, often within sections of the genetic code that promote or otherwise regulate the activities of the genes.
Feng C Zhou, professor of anatomy and cell biology at the Indiana’s School of Medicine noted that “some of the regulatory pathways included those involved with the brain’s ability to make new connections over time in response to new activities or environmental factors, what we call neuronal plasticity”.
Others included neurological and immune systems involved with stress.