Scientists from the Indiana University School of Medicine have found a connection between the process of alternative gene splicing and a person’s risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Their findings were recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
“Alternative splicing” is a biological process during gene expression where RNA is arranged in different ways, resulting in a variety of proteins that can be produced from a single gene.
This mechanism plays a crucial role in the diversity and complexity of organisms, and its dysregulation has been linked to many complex diseases, especially neurological or brain disorders.
What are the key findings?
Using a statistical genetics approach, the research team identified 27 specific “exon skipping events” that could contribute to the risk of AUD.
Exons are the coding portions of genes, and “exon skipping” is a type of alternative splicing where certain exons are left out during the splicing process.
According to Yunlong Liu, Ph.D., director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and senior author of the study, this is the first time a link has been demonstrated between exon inclusion in specific genes and the potential development of addiction.
Why does it matter?
This discovery provides a novel perspective on AUD and its genetic underpinnings, offering potential new targets for the development of therapeutics.
As explained by Rudong Li, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Yunlong Liu, Ph.D. Laboratory and lead author of the paper, “This discovery has revealed a novel perspective about AUD and opens up new possibilities for finding new therapeutics.”
Future research could target the novel genes, or specific regions of the genes, to better understand the molecular mechanisms in complex diseases, including AUD and other substance use disorders.
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The study was published in Molecular Psychiatry.
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