Chronic Voluntary Ethanol Drinking in Cynomolgus Macaques Elicits Gene Expression Changes in Prefrontal Cortical Area 46

Nicole A.R. Walter, Christina L. Zheng, Robert P. Searles, Shannon K. McWeeney, Kathleen A. Grant, Robert Hitzemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Genome-wide profiling to examine brain transcriptional features associated with excessive ethanol (EtOH) consumption has been applied to a variety of species including rodents, nonhuman primates (NHPs), and humans. However, these data were obtained from cross-sectional samples which are particularly vulnerable to individual variation when obtained from small outbred populations typical of human and NHP studies. In the current study, a novel within-subject design was used to examine the effects of voluntary EtOH consumption on prefrontal cortex (PFC) gene expression in a NHP model. Methods: Two cohorts of cynomolgus macaques (n = 23) underwent a schedule-induced polydipsia procedure to establish EtOH self-administration followed by 6 months of daily open access to EtOH (4% w/v) and water. Individual daily EtOH intakes ranged from an average of 0.7 to 3.7 g/kg/d. Dorsal lateral PFC area 46 (A46) brain biopsies were collected in EtOH-naïve and control monkeys; contralateral A46 biopsies were collected from the same monkeys following the 6 months of fluid consumption. Gene expression changes were assessed using RNA-Seq paired analysis, which allowed for correction of individual baseline differences in gene expression. Results: A total of 675 genes were significantly down-regulated following EtOH consumption; these were functionally enriched for immune response, cell adhesion, plasma membrane, and extracellular matrix. A total of 567 genes that were up-regulated following EtOH consumption were enriched in microRNA target sites and included target sites associated with Toll-like receptor pathways. The differentially expressed genes were also significantly enriched in transcription factor binding sites. Conclusions: The data presented here are the first to use a longitudinal biopsy strategy to examine how chronic EtOH consumption affects gene expression in the primate PFC. Prominent effects were seen in both cell adhesion and neuroimmune pathways; the latter contained both pro- and antiinflammatory genes. The data also indicate that changes in miRNAs and transcription factors may be important epigenetic regulators of EtOH consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-478
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Brain Gene Expression
  • Cortex
  • Cynomolgus Macaque
  • EtOH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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