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 DeltaCT; SD = 1.69; p = .021) was significantly higher when compared with healthy control subjects (2.20 DeltaCT; 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.