Over the past two years, I have highlighted studies from my own lab and others that have provided substantial evidence of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) modulation of alcohol and cocaine-related behaviors that serve as predictors of each drug’s addictive potential. This week’s Journal of Neuroscience features a brief summary of a recent original research article featured in the journal a few months ago by a group of addiction researchers from UCSF. Similar to BDNF, GDNF (glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor) reduced alcohol seeking as measured through conditioned place preference; a widely used operant conditioning paradigm in addiction research. It also directly affected dopaminergic tonus within the mesolimbic reward system which extends well beyond previous studies. Further support to neurotrophic modulation of drinking comes from another study published two years ago in which GDNF knock-out mice were more sensitive to the rewarding effects of alcohol compared to wild-types (Carnicella et al. 2009). While this data may provide novel therapeutic targets and treatment strategies for drug addiction, I wonder if all neurotrophic factors have generalized suppressive effects on drug intake. BDNF and GDNF are from separate neurotrophic families, so it would be interesting to examine if other neurotrophic factors from these same families or the third family, neuropoetic cytokines, also reduce alcohol/drug-seeking, have no effect, or actually increase seeking.
Pickens CL, & Calu DJ (2011). Alcohol Reward, Dopamine Depletion, and GDNF. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31 (42), 14833-4 PMID: 22016515