Single cell transcriptome profiling of the human alcohol-dependent brain

Eric Brenner, Gayatri R. Tiwari, Manav Kapoor, Yunlong Liu, Amy Brock, R. Dayne Mayfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Alcoholism remains a prevalent health concern throughout the world. Previous studies have identified transcriptomic patterns in the brain associated with alcohol dependence in both humans and animal models. But none of these studies have systematically investigated expression within the unique cell types present in the brain. We utilized single nucleus RNA sequencing (snRNA-seq) to examine the transcriptomes of over 16 000 nuclei isolated from the prefrontal cortex of alcoholic and control individuals. Each nucleus was assigned to one of seven major cell types by unsupervised clustering. Cell type enrichment patterns varied greatly among neuroinflammatory-related genes, which are known to play roles in alcohol dependence and neurodegeneration. Differential expression analysis identified cell type-specific genes with altered expression in alcoholics. The largest number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs), including both protein-coding and non-coding, were detected in astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia. To our knowledge, this is the first single cell transcriptome analysis of alcohol-associated gene expression in any species and the first such analysis in humans for any addictive substance. These findings greatly advance the understanding of transcriptomic changes in the brain of alcohol-dependent individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1144-1153
Number of pages10
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 8 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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    Brenner, E., Tiwari, G. R., Kapoor, M., Liu, Y., Brock, A., & Mayfield, R. D. (2020). Single cell transcriptome profiling of the human alcohol-dependent brain. Human molecular genetics, 29(7), 1144-1153.