We all like to celebrate here and there. Shoot…EpiGenie’s still recovering from its royal wedding breakfast bash. But most experts will tell you that moderation is key. Now, researchers in Sweden and Australia give us even more reason to heed that advice and avoid going on that next weekend bender—they found that heavy drinking can change your epigenetics and maybe even trigger alcoholism.
People with a “T” in a SNP in the 3’ UTR of the prodynorphin gene have a high risk of developing alcoholism. Most people, though, have a “C” there and a lower risk. But that C also forms a CpG island, which made the researchers wonder about the role of methylation, especially given past research linking DNAm and alcohol.
When they bisulfite treated and pyrosequenced human brain samples from (non-living, of course) alcoholics and controls they found:
- Some people with the “C” were in the alcoholism group. This “C” was in a methylated CpG island in alcoholics.
- The methylated C was correlated with high amounts of dynorphin which is known to cause problems with controlling alcohol intake.
- A protein that binds the high-risk “T” form also binds the methyl “C”, but doesn’t bind the unmethylated “C” that well.
The researchers say the data suggest that heavy drinking changes your methylation, which may increase transcription of a protein that clouds judgment, as well as an increased binding of a protein that is associated with alcoholism.