The role of α-synuclein in the pathophysiology of alcoholism

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Alcoholism has complex etiology and there is evidence for both genetic and environmental factors in its pathophysiology. Chronic, long-term alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are associated with neuronal loss with the prefrontal cortex being particularly susceptible to neurotoxic damage. This brain region is involved in the development and persistence of alcohol addiction and neurotoxic damage is likely to exacerbate the reinforcing effects of alcohol and may hinder treatment. Understanding the mechanism of alcohol’s neurotoxic effects on the brain and the genetic risk factors associated with alcohol abuse are the focus of current research. Because of its well-established role in neurodegenerative and neuropsychological disorders, and its emerging role in the pathophysiology of addiction, here we review the genetic and epigenetic factors involved in regulating α-synuclein expression and its potential role in the pathophysiology of chronic alcohol abuse. Elucidation of the mechanisms of α-synuclein regulation may prove beneficial in understanding the role of this key synaptic protein in disease and its potential for therapeutic modulation in the treatment of substance use disorders as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.

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