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MicroRNA implicated as molecular factor in alcohol tolerance
Date:7/30/2008

ithin minutes of exposure to alcohol. They also found that miR-9 blocks the expression of BK gene variants that contain a specific binding site for the molecule, while sparing those that lack a miR-9 binding site. Remarkably, the BK gene variants were destroyed exhibited high alcohol sensitivity, while those that remained showed significantly lower sensitivity, consistent with the development of tolerance.

"This represents a novel and elegant mechanism by which neurons are able to adapt to alcohol," said Treistman. "Moreover, since adaptation, or tolerance, to the drug likely contributes to alcohol abuse, our findings identify a potential molecular target for therapeutic intervention." Treistman credited his colleagues, especially Andrzej Z. Pietrzykowski, MD, PhD, research assistant professor of psychiatry, for their contributions to this important work.

A widely published expert on the molecular basis of addictionin particular, the changes in the brain that occur as a function of drug exposure, which may make an individual prone to substance abuse and the compulsive behavior associated with drug addictionDr. Treistman noted that the microRNA process observed in this study may represent a general mechanism of neuronal adaptation to alcohol, with miR-9 playing a pivotal role in a complex regulatory network.

"This study demonstrates for the first time that alcohol exposure can cause rapid changes in microRNA levels, altering gene expression and perhaps behavior," said Antonio Noronha, PhD, director of NIAAA's Division of Neuroscience and Behavior. "In future studies, it will be interesting to determine if similar microRNA-based regulatory mechanisms influence alcohol problems in human populations."


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Contact: Alison Duffy
alison.duffy@umassmed.edu
508-856-2000
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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