Adolescent binge drinking modifies gene expression in a fashion that increases susceptibility to anxiety and alcohol use disorders in adulthood, according to research in rats recently published in eNeuro. Targeting the microRNAs responsible could be a new route for undoing the damage of alcohol use caused during adolescence.
Previous researchers found that microRNA, small bits of RNA that modify how genes are expressed rather than coding for a protein, are involved in how early-life alcohol exposure changes the brain, but the exact mechanism was unknown.
Kyzar et al. exposed adolescent rats to alcohol and measured the resulting levels of miR-137, one type of microRNA, in the rats' amygdalae. The rats exposed to alcohol displayed increased levels of miR-137, resulting in lower expression of proteins necessary for healthy neuron growth and branching. In adulthood, the rats displayed higher levels of anxiety behaviors and a higher preference for alcohol compared to control rats. Inhibiting miR-137 in the amygdala reversed the anxiety and alcohol preference in the rats with an adolescent drinking history.
Manuscript title: MicroRNA-137 Drives Epigenetic Reprogramming in the Adult Amygdala and Behavioral Changes After Adolescent Alcohol Exposure
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eNeuro is an online, open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience. Established in 2014, eNeuro publishes a wide variety of content, including research articles, short reports, reviews, commentaries and opinions.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.