Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Blocking selected neurotransmitter activity may decrease alcohol consumption


  • Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a neurotransmitter that is integral to neurobiological functions such as anxiety, pain, memory and feeding behaviors.

  • Researchers have found that a compound that blocks NPY activity decreases both the onset as well as the repetition of alcohol consumption.

  • These findings have important implications for the treatment of both alcohol abuse and dependence.

Peptides are a class of neurotransmitters, chemicals used by brain cells to communicate with each other. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is the most abundant and widely distributed peptide, and is involved in a variety of neurobiological functions, including anxiety, pain, memory, and feeding behavior. Although previous animal research has implicated NPY systems in alcohol abuse and alcoholism, findings published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research are the first to show that a compound that blocks NPY activity may be useful for alcohol treatment.

"NPY is the most potent stimulant of feeding behavior known," explained Clyde W. Hodge, associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and corresponding author for the study. "For example, the primary brain region involved in control of eating is the hypothalamus. Animal studies have shown that repeated treatment of the hypothalamus with NPY produces dietary obesity in otherwise normal rats. We suspect that alcohol may usurp brain systems that evolved to perform other functions, such as eating, because these neural systems evolved long before humans discovered alcoholic beverages. Alcohol and drug abuse, therefore, can be considered disorders of consumption."

"Since NPY is a signal molecule, it produces its effects via several NPY receptors in the brain, such as the NPY-Y5 receptors," added Subhash C. Pandey, associate professor and director of Neuroscience Alcoholism Research in the department of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "This research suggests that alcohol-preferring mice may have higher levels of NPY-Y5 receptors in the brain. Other research suggests that these mice have lower NPY levels in the brain area involved in reward of alcohol drinking. It is also possible that both lower NPY levels and higher NPY-Y5 receptors in the brain may be associated with the excessive alcohol drinking behaviors of these mice."

This study uses alcohol-preferring mice called C57BL/6 to examine the effects of the NPY-Y5 receptor antagonist L-152,804 on the onset and maintenance of alcohol self-administration.

"Most of the known compounds that target NPY receptors do not cross the blood-brain barrier," said Hodge. "L-152,804, however, is a novel compound that was recently shown to both cross the blood-brain barrier and block NPY-Y5 receptors."

Researchers housed 59 male C57BL/6J mice in standard Plexiglas cages (4 per cage) with food and water always available. Mice were trained to self-administer either alcohol (10% v/v) or water during 16-hour sessions. After four months, the mice were injected systemically with L-152,804 (0, 10, 30 or 60 mg/kg) prior to the sessions.

Results indicate that not only does L-152,804 delay the onset of alcohol self-administration, which is considered an index of relapse potential, but it also seems to reduce the reinforcing, or rewarding, effects of alcohol.

"The process by which drug self-administration behavior becomes repetitive is called positive reinforcement," said Hodge. "It reflects the tendency of all animals, human and non-human, to repeat responses that produce a desired outcome. In general, this process functions to sustain behavior that is essential to the individual or species, such as eating, drinking or reproduction. In this particular case, L-152,804 appeared to block the reinforcing effects of alcohol. When taken together, these results suggest that L-152,804 might reduce the motivation to start drinking as well as decrease the amount of alcohol consumed. Thus, L-152,804 might make relapse less likely and possibly dampen its consequences.

Both Hodge and Pandey said these results have clear implications for the medical management of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

"If these studies are replicable and consistently produce findings that alcohol preference and dependence are associated with increased NPY-Y5 receptors in the brain," said Pandey, "then blocking these receptors with L-152, 804 may be useful in treating alcoholism. Furthermore, since this receptor antagonist is able to delay the onset of alcohol-drinking behaviors in alcohol-preferring mice, it also has potential in preventing relapse to alcohol abuse."

"Approved medications for alcoholism such as naltrexone," added Hodge, "may help prevent relapse but do not decrease drinking by chronic alcoholics who are actively drinking. L-152,804 has the potential to both prevent relapse and decrease active drinking. When you also consider the fact that L-152,804 can be administered orally, we believe that medications that block NPY actions at its receptors have great potential for the medical management of alcoholism."

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) is the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. Co-authors of the ACER paper included Jason P. Schroeder and Kimberly A. Iller of the Department of Psychiatry and Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the State of California, and the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Clyde W. Hodge | EurekAlert!
Further information:

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>