Yale researchers have uncovered a set of genes that are expressed in stressed heavy drinkers that do not become activated in moderate drinkers. The new data, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, suggests a mechanism by which psychological stress triggers alcohol consumption in heavy drinkers.
Two of the genes encode microRNAs, small regulatory molecules that control the expression of many other genes. The scientists demonstrated a direct correlation between microRNA expression and the amount of alcohol that was consumed.
Robert D. Beech, PhD, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, is lead author. Rajita Sinha, PhD, Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and professor in the Child Study Center and of neurobiology, is senior author.
Additional Yale authors include Janine J. Leffert, Aiping Lin, Kwangik A. Hong, Julie Hansen, Sheila Umlauf, Shrikant Mane, and Hongyu Zhao.
Reference: Stress-Related Alcohol Consumption in Heavy Drinkers Correlates with Expression of miR-10a, miR-21, and Components of the TAR-RNA-Binding Protein-Associated Complex (DOI: 10.1111/acer.12549)