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Elevated alpha synuclein mRNA levels are associated with craving in patients with alcoholism

      Background

      Alpha synuclein has been found elevated in dopamine neurons of cocaine abusers and in rats whose alcohol preference is inbred.

      Methods

      The alpha synuclein mRNA expression level was measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction in the blood of 75 male alcoholics and 69 nondrinking healthy control subjects. Alcohol craving was assessed by the Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale total score, including subscales for obsessive and compulsive craving.

      Results

      The alpha synuclein expression in patients with alcoholism (2.79 ΔCT; SD = 1.69; p = .021) was significantly higher when compared with healthy control subjects (2.20 ΔCT; SD = 1.59). Increased alpha synuclein levels significantly predict Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale total score (odds ratio = 1.44, 95% confidence interval: 1.01–2.06, p = .042) and especially Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale obsessive subscale (odds ratio = 1.74, 95% confidence interval: 1.18–2.58, p = .005) but not Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale compulsive subscale alcohol craving.

      Conclusions

      Higher levels of alpha synuclein are associated with an increase in alcohol craving. The present results provide a novel pathophysiological approach to the explanation of craving mechanisms.

      Key words

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