While binge drinking affects the health of both males and females, the effect of gene expression in an area of the brain linked to addiction was found to be different, finds a new study.
Repeated binge drinking was found to significantly alter molecular pathways in the nucleus accumbens — a region of the brain linked to addiction.
But, in females, the genes linked to hormone signalling and immune function are altered, whereas in males genes related to nerve signalling are affected.
The study has significant implications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder as they emphasise the importance of tailoring effective therapies towards male and female patients, said researchers led by Deborah Finn, Professor at Oregon Health and Science University.
Repeated binge drinking can be a risk factor for the development of alcohol dependence.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics, the team analysed gene expression in nucleus accumbens.
“We examined the effect of repeated binge drinking on the expression of 384 genes previously identified as important in addiction and mood disorders,” Finn said.
Of a total of 106 genes regulated by binge drinking, only 14 were regulated in both males and females, representing common targets to binge drinking. Interestingly, only 4 of these 14 genes were regulated in the same direction and the top 30 genes regulated by binge drinking in each sex differed markedly.
“We have shown that pharmacologically manipulating a pathway in both sexes that only was affected by binge drinking in males did not decrease binge drinking in females; binge drinking was only decreased in males,” Finn explained.
She noted that a consideration of sex is critical in the development of potential pharmacological therapies for the treatment of alcohol use disorder.