Author(s): Mann K, Kiefer F, Spanagel R, Littleton J
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Abstract This article explores the mechanisms of action and the potential responder profile of acamprosate, a compound efficacious in relapse prevention of alcoholism. New evidence at the molecular and cellular level suggests that acamprosate attenuates hyper-glutamatergic states that occur during early abstinence and involves iono (NMDA)- and metabotrotropic (mGluR5) glutamate receptors along with augmented intracellular calcium release and electrophysiological changes. Thus mutant mice with enhanced glutamate levels exhibit higher alcohol consumption than wild type mice and respond better to acamprosate, demonstrating that acamprosate acts mainly on a hyper-glutamatergic system. This mode of action further suggests that acamprosate exhibits neuroprotective properties. In rats, cue-induced reinstatement behavior is significantly reduced by acamprosate treatment whereas cue-induced craving responses in alcohol-dependent patients seem not to be affected by this treatment. An ongoing study ("Project Predict") defines specific responder profiles for an individualized use of acamprosate and naltrexone. Neurophysiological as well as psychometric data are used to define 2 groups of patients: "reward cravers" and "relief cravers". While naltrexone should work better in the first group, acamprosate is hypothesized to be efficacious in the latter where withdrawal associated and/or cue induced hyper-glutamatergic states are thought to trigger relapse. Further research should target the definition of subgroups applying endophenotypic approaches, e.g. by detecting a hyperglutamatergic syndrome using MR spectroscopy.
This article was published in Alcohol Clin Exp Res
and referenced in Journal of Genetic Syndromes & Gene Therapy