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Why some children are harmed by mother's alcohol, but others aren't
Date:3/23/2011

t this variation of the Dio3 gene from their mother, they don't make enough of this enzyme in their hippocampus to prevent an excess of thyroid hormones. The resulting overdose of the hormones makes the hippocampus vulnerable to damage by even a moderate amount of alcohol. The rat mothers in the study drank the human equivalent of two to three glasses of wine a day. Their male offspring showed deficits in social behavior and memory similar to humans whose mothers drank alcohol.

The alcohol causes the problem by almost completely silencing the father's copy of the Dio3 gene in animals whose mother has the gene variation. As a result, the offspring don't make enough of this enzyme, disrupting the delicate balance of the thyroid hormone levels. This is an example of an interaction between genetic variation in the DNA sequence, and epigenetics, which is when the environment, such as alcohol in utero, modifies the DNA.

"The identification of this novel mechanism will stimulate more research on other genes that also influence alcohol-related disorders, especially in females," said Laura Sittig, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in Redei's lab.

In the study, the rats' social behavior was measured by putting a pup into a cage with an adult. Normal adult behavior is to lick and smell the pup. The adults exposed to alcohol in utero, however, interacted with the pup half as much as normal. They also forgot where to navigate in a maze that evaluated spatial memory.

"These results show they had social and memory deficits," Redei said. "This indicates the damage to the hippocampus from the alcohol exposure."


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Contact: Marla Paul
marla-paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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