FKBP5 moderates alcohol withdrawal severity: Human genetic association and functional validation in knockout mice

Ming Chyi Huang, Melanie L. Schwandt, Julia A. Chester, Aaron M. Kirchhoff, Chung Feng Kao, Tiebing Liang, Jenica D. Tapocik, Vijay A. Ramchandani, David T. George, Colin A. Hodgkinson, David Goldman, Markus Heilig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Alcohol withdrawal is associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction. The FKBP5 gene codes for a co-chaperone, FK506-binding protein 5, that exerts negative feedback on HPA axis function. This study aimed to examine the effects of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the FKBP5 gene in humans and the effect of Fkbp5 gene deletion in mice on alcohol withdrawal severity. We genotyped six FKBP5 SNPs (rs3800373, rs9296158, rs3777747, rs9380524, rs1360780, and rs9470080) in 399 alcohol-dependent inpatients with alcohol consumption 48 h before admission and recorded scores from the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment-Alcohol revised (CIWA-Ar). Fkbp5 gene knockout (KO) and wild-type (WT) mice were assessed for alcohol withdrawal using handling-induced convulsions (HICs) following both acute and chronic alcohol exposure. We found the minor alleles of rs3800373 (G), rs9296158 (A), rs1360780 (T), and rs9470080 (T) were significantly associated with lower CIWA-Ar scores whereas the minor alleles of rs3777747 (G) and rs9380524 (A) were associated with higher scores. The haplotype-based analyses also showed an association with alcohol withdrawal severity. Fkbp5 KO mice showed significantly greater HICs during withdrawal from chronic alcohol exposure compared with WT controls. This study is the first to show a genetic effect of FKBP5 on the severity of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. In mice, the absence of the Fkbp5 gene enhances sensitivity to alcohol withdrawal. We suggest that FKBP5 variants may trigger different adaptive changes in HPA axis regulation during alcohol withdrawal with concomitant effects on withdrawal severity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2029-2038
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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