Neuroadaptations in Human Chronic Alcoholics: Dysregulation of the NF-κB System




Ökvist, Anna
Johansson, Sofia
Kuzmin, Alexander
Bazov, Igor
Merino-Martinez, Roxana
Ponomarev, Igor
Mayfield, R. Dayne
Harris, R. Adron
Sheedy, Donna
Garrick, Therese

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Public Library of Science


Background -- Alcohol dependence and associated cognitive impairments apparently result from neuroadaptations to chronic alcohol consumption involving changes in expression of multiple genes. Here we investigated whether transcription factors of Nuclear Factor-kappaB (NF-κB) family, controlling neuronal plasticity and neurodegeneration, are involved in these adaptations in human chronic alcoholics. Methods and Findings -- Analysis of DNA-binding of NF-κB (p65/p50 heterodimer) and the p50 homodimer as well as NF-κB proteins and mRNAs was performed in postmortem human brain samples from 15 chronic alcoholics and 15 control subjects. The prefrontal cortex involved in alcohol dependence and cognition was analyzed and the motor cortex was studied for comparison. The p50 homodimer was identified as dominant κB binding factor in analyzed tissues. NF-κB and p50 homodimer DNA-binding was downregulated, levels of p65 (RELA) mRNA were attenuated, and the stoichiometry of p65/p50 proteins and respective mRNAs was altered in the prefrontal cortex of alcoholics. Comparison of a number of p50 homodimer/NF-κB target DNA sites, κB elements in 479 genes, down- or upregulated in alcoholics demonstrated that genes with κB elements were generally upregulated in alcoholics. No significant differences between alcoholics and controls were observed in the motor cortex. Conclusions -- We suggest that cycles of alcohol intoxication/withdrawal, which may initially activate NF-κB, when repeated over years downregulate RELA expression and NF-κB and p50 homodimer DNA-binding. Downregulation of the dominant p50 homodimer, a potent inhibitor of gene transcription apparently resulted in derepression of κB regulated genes. Alterations in expression of p50 homodimer/NF-κB regulated genes may contribute to neuroplastic adaptation underlying alcoholism.


Anna Ökvist is with Karolinska Institute, Sofia Johansson is with Karolinska Institute, Alexander Kuzmin is with Karolinska Institute, Igor Bazov is with Karolinska Institute, Roxana Merino-Martinez is with Karolinska Institute, Igor Ponomarev is with UT Austin, R. Dayne Mayfield is with UT Austin, R. Adron Harris is with UT Austin, Donna Sheedy is with University of Sydney, Therese Garrick is with University of Sydney, Clive Harper is with University of Sydney, Yasmin L. Hurd is with Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Lars Terenius is with Karolinska Institute, Tomas J. Ekström is with Karolinska Institute, Georgy Bakalkin is with Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University, Tatjana Yakovleva is with Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University.

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Ökvist A, Johansson S, Kuzmin A, Bazov I, Merino-Martinez R, et al. (2007) Neuroadaptations in Human Chronic Alcoholics: Dysregulation of the NF-κB System. PLoS ONE 2(9): e930. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000930