Differences in platelet enzyme activity between alcoholics and nonalcoholics

N Engl J Med. 1988 Jan 21;318(3):134-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198801213180302.


Blood platelets are an accessible tissue that reflects the activity of many enzymes found in the brain. To investigate the possible effect on such enzymes of long-term consumption of large quantities of ethanol, we assayed the activities of two enzymes, monoamine oxidase and adenylate cyclase, in platelet membranes of men with alcoholism and controls matched for sex and age. We also compared these two groups in terms of the inhibition of platelet monoamine oxidase activity by ethanol in vitro (400 mM), and in terms of the stimulation of adenylate cyclase activity by various agents. There was no significant difference in monoamine oxidase activity between the alcoholics and the controls. However, the inhibition of monoamine oxidase by ethanol was significantly higher in the platelets of alcoholics. The basal activity of adenylate cyclase was the same in platelets from the alcoholics and the controls, but the platelet adenylate cyclase activity after stimulation with guanine nucleotide, cesium fluoride, or prostaglandin E1 was significantly lower in alcoholics. These differences were not associated with age, race, smoking, or illicit drug use, and there was no significant correlation with the duration of problems with alcohol. The changes were long-lasting; cesium fluoride-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity was lower in alcoholic subjects who had abstained from alcohol for one to four years. Discriminant analysis showed that the use of values for the inhibition of monoamine oxidase activity by ethanol and cesium fluoride-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity correctly classified 75 percent of the alcoholics and 73 percent of the controls. These measures may be of value either as indexes of excessive alcohol consumption or as an indication of a predisposition to alcoholism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclase Inhibitors
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / blood*
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / enzymology*
  • Blood Platelets / enzymology*
  • Cell Membrane / enzymology
  • Cesium / pharmacology
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Fluorides*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / blood*
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Smoking / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Adenylyl Cyclase Inhibitors
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Cesium
  • Ethanol
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Fluorides
  • cesium fluoride