Variant of β-Kloth gene identified in regulating alcohol preference and consumption

Drinking has become a common phenomenon in parties, events and family gatherings. With increased consumption all over the world, people are at the risk of adverse health consequences owing to alcohol’s addictive properties. A group of researchers from King’s College London, Imperial College London and UT Southwestern Medical Center have suggested how the effect of a liver hormone identified as FGF21 along with β-Klotho may control the tendency to drink alcohol by acting directly on a receptor in the brain.

The researchers in their study titled “KLB is associated with alcohol drinking, and its gene product β-Klotho is necessary for FGF21 regulation of alcohol preference” revealed the role of a liver-brain axis that plays a significant role in modifying alcohol consumption. The findings of the study published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in November 2016, indicates the probability of a new treatment method that could be used to reduce alcohol consumption, possibly in those with drinking problems.

The purpose of this research lies in the understanding that alcohol drinking habits are genetically imbibed, though the effect of individual genes is small. The necessity to conduct studies on a bigger scale with larger sample sizes led the scientists to carry out a genetic evaluation of usual consumption habits in over 105,000 individuals of European descent. Apart from making available their samples for genetic analysis, the respondents also responded to inquiries made regarding their weekly drinking habits and amount of alcohol consumption.

How genes regulate drinking habits

The scientists during their study observed the association between variation of a gene identified as β-Klotho and amount of alcohol consumed by people and suggested how it may be helpful in controlling drinking behavior. The less frequent variant of the gene, observed in roughly 40 percent of people who had participated in the study, was linked with a reduced inclination to consume alcohol.

The scientists assessed the impact of β-Klotho on drinking tendencies in mice. The mice were genetically altered without the ability to produce β-Klotho. Then the animals were offered a choice between alcohol and water. The researchers observed that the mice lacking β-Klotho in the brain consumed more alcohol. The scientists also noted that FGF21 impedes the inclination of mice towards alcohol. However, when these mice were left bereft of β-Klotho, the effect of FGF21 was found to be nil on the drinking behavior.

Analysis of liver-brain pathway reveals factors behind alcohol preference

Elucidating the results obtained, one of the co-authors of the study, professor Gunter Schumann from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London said, “Our study reveals a previously unrecognized liver-brain pathway which regulates alcohol consumption in humans, and which could one day be targeted therapeutically to suppress consumption in problem drinkers. The results point towards an intriguing feedback loop, where FGF21 is produced in the liver in response to sugar and alcohol intake, which then acts directly on the brain to limit consumption.”

The authors of the study reiterated the need to conduct further studies as they have not been able to negate the probability that β-Klotho acts by lending an impact on neighboring genes.

Recovery road map

Excessive indulgence in alcohol for a prolonged period or at one go can result in addictive tendencies which can be cured only after seeking treatment at a certified addiction treatment center with trained and experienced therapists. As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost 20 million American adults reported alcohol consumption in 2015, which is more than half of the total adult population. The need of the hour is to take preventive measures and increase the number of treatment facilities.

If you know someone battling with alcohol addiction, contact Alcohol Addiction Get Help Helpline to find state-of-the-art alcohol addiction treatment centers in your area. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-281-3014 or chat online with our treatment advisors for more details about our alcohol addiction treatment centers in U.S.A.