Not all mice are lushes. Most drink spirituous beverages inmoderation.

However, enough laboratory-bred rodents over-do their tipple ofethanol to make useful animal models for tracking the hereditarycomponent of alcoholism in humans.

One such mouse study, reported in the June issue of Nature Genetics,found that murine addiction traits differ by the sex of the animalstested. Molecular biologist Lee Silver at Princeton University inPrinceton, N.J., focused on two mouse strains with unusual inbornalcohol consumption patterns.

B6 mice greedily guzzle large quantities of alcohol over long periods,in preference to food or water; DBA rodents never touch the stuff.Silver's team cross-bred the two types to monitor B6 genes that mightinfluence alcohol consumption.

They found one recessive alcohol-preference trait on murinechromosome 2; another on chromosome 11. The first acted only onmales; the second exclusively on females. This, they report, jibeswith human studies that have found separate genetic mechanisms inmen and women predisposed to alcohol abuse.

The Princetonian research also determined that genes that influencealcohol preference in their mice are unrelated to propensities forother forms of drug abuse, such as morphine predilection. "Why theB6 mouse has acquired independent preferences for multipleaddictive and euphoria-producing substances," the paper concluded,"remains a mystery." _ David N. Leff

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