Genetic variation and epigenetic modification of the prodynorphin gene in peripheral blood cells in alcoholism

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Dynorphins are critically involved in the development, maintenance and relapse of alcoholism. Alcohol-induced changes in the prodynorphin gene expression may be influenced by both gene polymorphisms and epigenetic modifications. The present study of human alcoholics aims to evaluate DNA methylation patterns in the prodynorphin gene (PDYN) promoter and to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with alcohol dependence and with altered DNA methylation. Genomic DNA was isolated from peripheral blood cells of alcoholics and healthy controls, and DNA methylation was studied in the PDYN promoter by bisulfite pyrosequencing. In alcoholics, DNA methylation increased in three of the seven CpG sites investigated, as well as in the average of the seven CpG sites. Data stratification showed lower increase in DNA methylation levels in individuals reporting craving and with higher levels of alcohol consumption. Association with alcoholism was observed for rs2235751 and the presence of the minor allele G was associated with reduced DNA methylation at PDYN promoter in females and younger subjects. Genetic and epigenetic factors within PDYN are related to risk for alcoholism, providing further evidence of its involvement on ethanol effects. These results might be of relevance for developing new biomarkers to predict disease trajectories and therapeutic outcome.

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