Alcohol has been shown to critically modulate cyclic adenosine-3′,5′ monophosphate (cAMP) signaling. A number of downstream effectors that respond to the cAMP signals (e.g., protein kinase A, cAMP response element binding protein) have, in turn, been examined in relation to alcohol consumption. These studies did not, however, delineate the point at which the actions of alcohol on the cAMP cascade might translate into differences in drinking behavior. To further understand the role of cAMP synthesis in alcohol drinking and dependence, we investigated a specific adenylyl cyclase isoform, adenylyl cyclase (AC) Type 7, whose activity is selectively enhanced by ethanol.
We measured alcohol consumption and preference in mice in which one copy of the Adcy7 gene was disrupted (Adcy7+/−). To demonstrate relevance of this gene for alcohol dependence in humans, we tested the association of polymorphisms in the ADCY7 gene with alcohol dependence in a sample of 1703 alcohol-dependent individuals and 1347 control subjects.
We show that Adcy7+/− female mice have higher preference for alcohol than wild-type mice, whereas there is little difference in alcohol consumption or preference between Adcy7+/− male mice and wild-type control subjects. In the human sample, we found that single nucleotide polymorphisms in ADCY7 associate with alcohol dependence in women, and these markers are also associated with ADCY7 expression (messenger RNA) levels.
These findings implicate adenylyl cyclase Type 7 as a critical component of the molecular pathways contributing to alcohol drinking and the development of alcohol dependence.