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Comparing DRD2 Promoter Methylation Between Blood and Brain in Alcohol Dependence.

Alcohol and Alcoholism 2023 Februrary 7
AIMS: The dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) is substantially involved in several forms of addiction. In addition to genetic polymorphisms, epigenetic mechanisms have emerged as an important means of regulation. Previously, DRD2 hypo- and hyper-methylation have been observed in alcohol use disorder (AUD). Blood samples are commonly used as a surrogate marker of epigenetic alterations in epigenetic research, but few specific comparisons between blood and brain tissue samples in AUD exist.

METHODS: We used post-mortem brain tissue samples of 17 deceased patients with AUD and 31 deceased controls to investigate the relationship between blood and brain methylation of the DRD2 promoter.

RESULTS: When investigating individual cytosine methylation sites (CpG), several significant differences were found in the nucleus accumbens and hippocampus in the study population. Investigating binding sites with significant differences in methylation levels revealed hypomethylated CpGs targeting mainly activating transcription factors.

CONCLUSION: These findings support an altered transcription of the DRD2 gene in AUD specimens with a consecutively changed reward response in the brain. While methylation between specific brain regions and blood is comparable, our study further suggests that blood methylation cannot provide meaningful perspectives on DRD2 promoter methylation in the brain.

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