An inhibitory gene that affects alcohol binge behavior

This 2015 La Jolla rodent study found that an inhibitory gene affected alcohol binging behavior:

“Our study reveals the behavioral impact of this cellular effect, whereby the level of GIRK3 [the gene] expression in the VTA [ventral tegmental area] tunes ethanol intake under binge-type conditions: the more GIRK3, the less ethanol drinking.”

GIRK3-silenced mice still binged, though, and got alcohol’s rewarding effects through dopamine’s other neural pathways.

High concentrations of the gene were found in the thalamus part of the limbic system of wild-type mice, the control group. Per the study’s title, this gene presumably contributes to the thalamus’ overall function of gating information from limbic system and lower brain areas to reach the cerebrum and vice versa.

And the potential causes for reduced GIRK3 expression are..?? Hopefully – someday – researchers will be focused on finding causes for abnormal gene expression rather than being content to just study effects of abnormal gene expression. Until then, the usual practice of considering only the effects led these researchers to:

“Believe that a compound selectively targeting GIRK3-containing channels may hold promise for reducing alcohol consumption in heavy binge drinkers.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/22/7091.full “GIRK3 gates activation of the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway by ethanol”

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