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A genetic determinant of the striatal dopamine response to alcohol in men

Abstract

Excessive alcohol use, a major cause of morbidity and mortality, is less well understood than other addictive disorders. Dopamine release in ventral striatum is a common element of drug reward, but alcohol has an unusually complex pharmacology, and humans vary greatly in their alcohol responses. This variation is related to genetic susceptibility for alcoholism, which contributes more than half of alcoholism risk. Here, we report that a functional OPRM1 A118G polymorphism is a major determinant of striatal dopamine responses to alcohol. Social drinkers recruited based on OPRM1 genotype were challenged in separate sessions with alcohol and placebo under pharmacokinetically controlled conditions, and examined for striatal dopamine release using positron emission tomography and [11C]-raclopride displacement. A striatal dopamine response to alcohol was restricted to carriers of the minor 118G allele. To directly establish the causal role of OPRM1 A118G variation, we generated two humanized mouse lines, carrying the respective human sequence variant. Brain microdialysis showed a fourfold greater peak dopamine response to an alcohol challenge in h/mOPRM1-118GG than in h/mOPRM1-118AA mice. OPRM1 A118G variation is a genetic determinant of dopamine responses to alcohol, a mechanism by which it likely modulates alcohol reward.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the NIAAA Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research (Heilig, Hommer, George and Ramchandani), and Grants AA014619 from NIAAA (Parsons) and PAI 433/06 from Consejeria de Innovacion y Ciencia (Pavon). We gratefully acknowledge data analysis by M Kerich and R Momenan, biochemical analysis by E Singley and PET data collection by C Jones, S Kumar, S Eappen, and J Issa.

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Ramchandani, V., Umhau, J., Pavon, F. et al. A genetic determinant of the striatal dopamine response to alcohol in men. Mol Psychiatry 16, 809–817 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2010.56

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