Researchers at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have found that a father's chronic drinking influences the alcohol use disorder vulnerability of his son even before he is conceived.
The findings, published online Wednesday in PLOS ONE, show male mice that were chronically exposed to alcohol before breeding had male offspring that were less likely to consume alcohol and were more sensitive to its effects, providing new insight into inheritance and development of drinking behaviors.
Previous human studies indicate that alcoholism can run in families, particularly father to son, but to date only a few gene variants have been associated with Alcohol Use Disorder and they account for only a small fraction of the risk of inheriting the problem, said senior investigator Gregg E. Homanics, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology & chemical biology, Pitt School of Medicine. "We examined whether a father's exposure to alcohol could alter expression of the genes he passed down to his children," Dr. Homanics said. "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."