Another G and T, Sir?

  Alcoholic drinks have been with us for a very long time and occur naturally as fruit falls and ferments with yeasts on the surface working their magic on the juices oozing from damaged skins. I well remember an occasion, when too busy to pick the plums from our plum trees, encountering a large number of wasps and bees crawling about having difficulty in flying and having to consider walking home. They were not in a very good mood and I expect their hangovers were significant.

Accidental drinking apart, many of us enjoy a jar or two and treat ethanol with the respect it deserves. This is not always possible, though, and sometimes she (somehow ethanol sounds female although dictionaries insist that it is masculine) becomes a demanding mistress.

Sometimes our like of alcohol gets all-absorbing as our amygdala takes complete control. It is interesting though that our amygdala shrinks as we become alcoholic, but what is the chemical mechanism involved?

This is clearly an important but challenging question and Lesscher et al were not going to let this issue pass them by and set about to sort things out and take a look deep into the genes. They reported out last week (1).

When it comes to drunks, mice and men become pretty much of a muchness. Hence the investigators started out with mice who were simple social drinkers taking a drop or two when they felt like it. Like many of us with too little to do and a bottle at hand, the mice increased their alcohol consumption over the first couple of weeks and then wandered around in a happily titrated daze.

Well, of course, if you are interested in genomics and have a large number of alcoholic mice staggering about, you have a chance to look for the alcoholic’s control gene and the amygdala 14-3-3ζ gene seemed to fit the bill nicely. So the next step was to either knockdown the gene or enhance via infusion and to watch what happens.

Well, when it was knocked out, the mice escalated there drinking and carousing. They really needed their regular fix, as they weren’t being put off by the addition of quinine to their drinks.

I should point out that a G and T has quinine in it and has been a favorite beverage for a rather long time, so asking a sozzled rodent if it would like another G and T was likely to be answered in the affirmative. We all need to look after our 14-3-3ζs to keep us under control.

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