Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the CNS and plays an integral role in physiological processes such as osmoregulation, neuroprotection, and neuromodulation. Both taurine and alcohol exert positive allosteric modulatory effects on neuronal ligand-gated chloride channels (i.e., GABA(A) and glycine receptors) and inhibitory effects on other ligand- and voltage-gated cation channels (i.e., NMDA and Ca(2+) channels).
Behavioral evidence suggests that taurine may alter the movement-stimulating, sedative, and motivational effects of ethanol in a highly dose-dependent manner. Microdialysis studies have shown that alcohol increases extracellular taurine levels in numerous brain regions, although the functional consequences of this phenomenon are currently unknown. Finally, taurine and several related molecules, including the homotaurine derivative acamprosate (calcium acetyl homotaurinate), may reduce ethanol self-administration and relapse to drinking in both animals and humans.
Taken together, these data suggest that the endogenous taurine system may be an important modulator of the effects of ethanol on the nervous system and may provide a new therapeutic avenue for the development of drugs to treat alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
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