The study originating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, investigated the role of epigenetics in developing sensitivity to alcohol. The research published in the PLOS ONE journal revealed that males who are chronically exposed to alcohol before conceiving had offspring who were particularly sensitive to alcohol. Mice models were exposed to a chronic level of alcohol and then mated with female mice who were not exposed to alcohol. This effect was seen exclusively in male offspring not daughters.
Prior studies have specified that there is a genetic link towards developing alcoholism as the disease tends to run in families; in particular from father to son. However, only a few genes have been identified and linked to alcohol use disorder.
“We examined whether a father’s exposure to alcohol could alter expression of the genes he passed down to his children,” said Gregg E. Homanics, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology & chemical biology, Pitt School of Medicine.”Rather than mutation of the genetic sequence, environmental factors might lead to changes that modify the activity of a gene, which is called epigenetics. Our mouse study shows that it is possible for alcohol to modify the dad’s otherwise normal genes and influence consumption in his sons, but surprisingly not his daughters.”
“We suspected that the offspring of alcohol exposed sires would have an enhanced taste for alcohol, which seems to be the pattern for humans,” said Mr. Finegersh, another study participant. “Whether the unexpected reduction in alcohol drinking that was observed is due to differences between species or the specific drinking model that was tested is unclear.”
Andrey Finegersh, Gregg E. Homanics. Paternal Alcohol Exposure Reduces Alcohol Drinking and Increases Behavioral Sensitivity to Alcohol Selectively in Male Offspring. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (6): e99078 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099078