Growth factors and alcohol use disorder

Mirit Liran, Nofar Rahamim, Dorit Ron, Segev Barak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurotrophic growth factors were originally characterized for their support in neuronal differentiation, outgrowth, and survival during development. However, it has been acknowledged that they also play a vital role in the adult brain. Abnormalities in growth factors have been implicated in a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including alcohol use disorder (AUD). This work focuses on the interaction between alcohol and growth factors. We review literature suggesting that several growth factors play a unique role in the regulation of alcohol consumption, and that breakdown in these growth factor systems is linked to the development of AUD. Specifically, we focus on the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), and insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1). We also review the literature on the potential role of midkine (MDK) and pleiotrophin (PTN) and their receptor, anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), in AUD. We show that alcohol alters the expression of these growth factors or their receptors in brain regions previously implicated in addiction, and that manipulations on these growth factors and their downstream signaling can affect alcohol-drinking behaviors in animal models. We conclude that there is a need for translational and clinical research to assess the therapeutic potential of new pharmacotherapies targeting these systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera039271
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalCold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2020


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