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Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Jan;45(1):115-21. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2011.04.013. Epub 2011 Apr 22.

Ethanol modulation of gene networks: implications for alcoholism.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.


Alcoholism is a complex disease caused by a confluence of environmental and genetic factors influencing multiple brain pathways to produce a variety of behavioral sequelae, including addiction. Genetic factors contribute to over 50% of the risk for alcoholism and recent evidence points to a large number of genes with small effect sizes as the likely molecular basis for this disease. Recent progress in genomics (microarrays or RNA-Seq) and genetics has led to the identification of a large number of potential candidate genes influencing ethanol behaviors or alcoholism itself. To organize this complex information, investigators have begun to focus on the contribution of gene networks, rather than individual genes, for various ethanol-induced behaviors in animal models or behavioral endophenotypes comprising alcoholism. This chapter reviews some of the methods used for constructing gene networks from genomic data and some of the recent progress made in applying such approaches to the study of the neurobiology of ethanol. We show that rapid technology development in gathering genomic data, together with sophisticated experimental design and a growing collection of analysis tools are producing novel insights for understanding the molecular basis of alcoholism and that such approaches promise new opportunities for therapeutic development.

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