Differentially co-expressed genes in postmortem prefrontal cortex of individuals with alcohol use disorders: influence on alcohol metabolism-related pathways

Hum Genet. 2014 Nov;133(11):1383-94. doi: 10.1007/s00439-014-1473-x. Epub 2014 Jul 30.


Chronic alcohol consumption may induce gene expression alterations in brain reward regions such as the prefrontal cortex (PFC), modulating the risk of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Transcriptome profiles of 23 AUD cases and 23 matched controls (16 pairs of males and 7 pairs of females) in postmortem PFC were generated using Illumina's HumanHT-12 v4 Expression BeadChip. Probe-level differentially expressed genes and gene modules in AUD subjects were identified using multiple linear regression and weighted gene co-expression network analyses. The enrichment of differentially co-expressed genes in alcohol dependence-associated genes identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) was examined using gene set enrichment analysis. Biological pathways overrepresented by differentially co-expressed genes were uncovered using DAVID bioinformatics resources. Three AUD-associated gene modules in males [Module 1 (561 probes mapping to 505 genes): r = 0.42, P(correlation) = 0.020; Module 2 (815 probes mapping to 713 genes): r = 0.41, P(correlation) = 0.020; Module 3 (1,446 probes mapping to 1,305 genes): r = -0.38, P(correlation) = 0.030] and one AUD-associated gene module in females [Module 4 (683 probes mapping to 652 genes): r = 0.64, P(correlation) = 0.010] were identified. Differentially expressed genes mapped by significant expression probes (P(nominal) ≤ 0.05) clustered in Modules 1 and 2 were enriched in GWAS-identified alcohol dependence-associated genes [Module 1 (134 genes): P = 0.028; Module 2 (243 genes): P = 0.004]. These differentially expressed genes, including ALDH2, ALDH7A1, and ALDH9A1, are involved in cellular functions such as aldehyde detoxification, mitochondrial function, and fatty acid metabolism. Our study revealed differentially co-expressed genes in postmortem PFC of AUD subjects and demonstrated that some of these differentially co-expressed genes participate in alcohol metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / metabolism
  • Autopsy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Computational Biology
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome*


  • Ethanol