Network preservation reveals shared and unique biological processes associated with chronic alcohol abuse in NAc and PFC. Academic Article uri icon


  • Chronic alcohol abuse has been linked to the disruption of executive function and allostatic conditioning of reward response dysregulation in the mesocorticolimbic pathway (MCL). Here, we analyzed genome-wide mRNA and miRNA expression from matched cases with alcohol dependence (AD) and controls (n = 35) via gene network analysis to identify unique and shared biological processes dysregulated in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and nucleus accumbens (NAc). We further investigated potential mRNA/miRNA interactions at the network and individual gene expression levels to identify the neurobiological mechanisms underlying AD in the brain. By using genotyped and imputed SNP data, we identified expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) uncovering potential genetic regulatory elements for gene networks associated with AD. At a Bonferroni corrected p≤0.05, we identified significant mRNA (NAc = 6; PFC = 3) and miRNA (NAc = 3; PFC = 2) AD modules. The gene-set enrichment analyses revealed modules preserved between PFC and NAc to be enriched for immune response processes, whereas genes involved in cellular morphogenesis/localization and cilia-based cell projection were enriched in NAc modules only. At a Bonferroni corrected p≤0.05, we identified significant mRNA/miRNA network module correlations (NAc = 6; PFC = 4), which at an individual transcript level implicated miR-449a/b as potential regulators for cellular morphogenesis/localization in NAc. Finally, we identified eQTLs (NAc: mRNA = 37, miRNA = 9; PFC: mRNA = 17, miRNA = 16) which potentially mediate alcohol's effect in a brain region-specific manner. Our study highlights the neurotoxic effects of chronic alcohol abuse as well as brain region specific molecular changes that may impact the development of alcohol addiction.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Vornholt, E., Drake, J., Mamdani, M., McMichael, G., Taylor, Z. N., Bacanu, S., Miles, M. F., & Vladimirov, V. I

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Vornholt, Eric||Drake, John||Mamdani, Mohammed||McMichael, Gowon||Taylor, Zachary N||Bacanu, Silviu-Alin||Miles, Michael F||Vladimirov, Vladimir I

publication date

  • December 2020