Mechanism connects early binge drinking to adult behaviors

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Mechanism connects early binge drinking to adult behaviors

Subhash Pandey, director, UIC Center for Research in Alcohol Epigenetics.
Subhash Pandey, director, UIC Center for Research in Alcohol Epigenetics.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers report that intermittent exposure to high levels of alcohol in adolescent animals leads to increased levels of microRNA-137 — a molecule that regulates gene expression in cells — in the brains of adults.

Their findings, which are published in the journal eNEURO, also show that blocking microRNA-137 in adulthood helps to reverse or reduce the lasting effects of youth drinking in animal models, such as increased alcohol use and anxiety.

“MicroRNA-137 is an important part of normal brain development, but when young brains are exposed to high amounts of alcohol intermittently, as happens with binge drinking behavior, the molecule’s regular function is altered,” said Subhash Pandey, professor of psychiatry and director of the UIC Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics. “By altering microRNA-137 levels, binge drinking actually rewires the brain.”

Pandey calls this alteration an epigenetic change, referring to changes in genes that are a result of environmental and social factors or exposures, not defects in the DNA’s code.

In his study, Pandey and his colleagues mimicked adolescent binge drinking in young rodents by exposing them to alcohol in cycles: two days of alcohol exposure followed by two days without alcohol exposure. They repeated the cycle eight times. After the rodents grew into adulthood, their behavior and brains were analyzed. They were more likely than non-exposed rodents to choose alcohol over water when presented with options and they were more likely to exhibit signs of anxiety.

Read more at: UIC Today

Featured Researchers

Subhash C. Pandey PhD

  • Director, Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics
  • Professor of Biochemistry in Psychiatry
  • Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
  • Director, Neuroscience Alcoholism Research
  • Senior VA Career Research Scientist
  • Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago

(312) 413-1310
scpandeyatuic [dot] edu

Evan Kyzar MD, PhD

  • MD/Phd Candidate
  • Department of Psychiatry
  • University of Illinois at Chicago

ekyzar2atuic [dot] edu

John Peyton Bohnsack PhD

  • Post Doctoral Research Associate
  • Department of Psychiatry
  • University of Illinois at Chicago

pbohnsacatuic [dot] edu

Huaibo Zhang MD, PhD

  • Research Assistant Professor
  • Department of Psychiatry
  • University of Illinois at Chicago

(312) 355-2648
hbzhangatuic [dot] edu