MicroRNA expression profile and functional analysis reveal that miR-382 is a critical novel gene of alcohol addiction

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Alcohol addiction is a major social and health concern. Here, we determined the expression profile of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of rats treated with alcohol. The results suggest that multiple miRNAs were aberrantly expressed in rat NAc after alcohol injection. Among them, miR-382 was down-regulated in alcohol-treated rats. In both cultured neuronal cells in vitro and in the NAc in vivo, we identified that the dopamine receptor D1 (Drd1) is a direct target gene of miR-382. Via this target gene, miR-382 strongly modulated the expression of DeltaFosB. Moreover, overexpression of miR-382 significantly attenuated alcohol-induced up-regulation of DRD1 and DeltaFosB, decreased voluntary intake of and preference for alcohol and inhibited the DRD1-induced action potential responses. The results indicated that miRNAs are involved in and may represent novel therapeutic targets for alcoholism.

The underlying molecular causes of alcohol addiction remain unclear. Many miRNAs are found modulated in the nucleus accumbens of rats chronically treated with alcohol. Specifically, miR-382 is shown to regulate alcohol intake via DRD1 and DeltaFosB.

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