Modeling the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence with genetic animal models

John C. Crabbe, Kenneth S. Kendler, Robert J. Hitzemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


A diagnosis of alcohol dependence (AD) using the DSM-IV-R is categorical, based on an individual’s manifestation of three or more symptoms from a list of seven. AD risk can be traced to both genetic and environmental sources. Most genetic studies of AD risk implicitly assume that an AD diagnosis represents a single underlying genetic factor. We recently found that the criteria for an AD diagnosis represent three somewhat distinct genetic paths to individual risk. Specifically, heavy use and tolerance versus withdrawal and continued use despite problems reflected separate genetic factors. However, some data suggest that genetic risk for AD is adequately described with a single underlying genetic risk factor. Rodent animal models for alcohol-related phenotypes typically target discrete aspects of the complex human AD diagnosis. Here, we review the literature derived from genetic animal models in an attempt to determine whether they support a single-factor or multiple-factor genetic structure. We conclude that there is modest support in the animal literature that alcohol tolerance and withdrawal reflect distinct genetic risk factors, in agreement with our human data. We suggest areas where more research could clarify this attempt to align the rodent and human data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-221
Number of pages35
JournalCurrent topics in behavioral neurosciences
StatePublished - Sep 11 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene expression
  • Genetic correlations
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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