Gene Linked to Alcohol Consumption Curbs Desire to Drink

Light and heavy drinkers who were participating in an estimated four dozen studies worldwide were compared through genetic analysis and questionnaires.


A group of more than 120 UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers and colleagues in Europe have identified a gene variation linked to alcohol consumption, according to a UT Southwestern news release.

The variant in the β-Klotho gene suppresses the desire to drink alcohol and was discovered through gene mapping and comparison of 105,000 light and heavy social drinkers, according to Dr. David Mangelsdorf, chair of pharmacology at UT Southwestern and a corresponding author of the study,

Light and heavy drinkers of European ancestry who were participating in an estimated four dozen other studies worldwide were compared through genetic analysis and questionnaires. 


Mangelsdorf said the less-common variant was shown in 40 percent of the people in the study, and was linked to a decreased desire to drink alcohol.

The European research group knew of past UT Southwestern research on the β-Klotho gene, as well as the associated liver hormone FGF21 that make up the β-Klotho-FGF21 receptor complex, and that knowledge spurred the research partnership.

“They asked us to conduct experiments in mice to better understand the role of β-Klotho in alcohol drinking behavior,” Mangelsdorf said. “The β-Klotho gene directs the production of the β-Klotho protein that forms part of a receptor complex in the brain.”


The National Academy of Sciences study could lead to alcohol consumption-regulating drugs. Though alcoholics were not involved in the current study, the news release said that there is potential for possible treatments in those with drinking problems.

“This is a hormone with some remarkable pharmacologic effects,” Mangelsdorf said. “The current study suggests that the FGF21-β-Klotho pathway regulates alcohol consumption in humans and seems to point to a mechanism that we might be able to influence in order to reduce alcohol intake.”

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