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Margaret Fuller, M5G



MSTP Learning Community:  Bean

MSTP Entry Date: June 9, 2014

PhD Program:

Molecular Physiology & Biophysics


John Wemmie, MD, PhD

Graduate Profile Lab Website

Alcohol Abuse: a role for ASICs?

Alcohol is a ubiquitous drug, with immense public health consequences, leading to >5% of the global disease burden and an annual loss of $249 billion in the US alone. Despite the scale of its consequences, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is not completely understood, and the treatments for AUD are inadequate. It is therefore important to pursue new understanding of the mechanisms underlying AUD. Alcohol is thought to alter glutamatergic synaptic transmission in reward circuits in the brain, and we are pursuing a better understanding of this mechanism. To this end, we study acid-sensing ion channel 1A (ASIC1A), which is involved in mechanisms of drugs of abuse as well as glutamatergic synaptic transmission in reward circuits. We show that ASIC1A disruption decreases sensitivity to the acute sedating effects of alcohol, suggesting that ASIC1A could be important in vulnerability to AUD. We hypothesized that ASIC1A would also influence alcohol consumption.  In both continuous and binge-like alcohol consumption assays, there appears to be no difference in consumption between ASIC1A knockout mice and wild-type mice. There also appears to be no difference in blood alcohol levels (BALs) between genotypes, and that the BALs are lower than in the acute assays. These results suggest that ASIC1A is involved in acute responses to high-dose alcohol but that it is not involved in low-dose chronic consumption behaviors. The effect of ASIC1A could be specific to acute responses, which are thought to be predictors of addiction vulnerability in humans, or it could be specific to high-dose responses, and BALs are not high enough in the chronic consumption assays to capture the effect. Current work in the lab will determine the role ASIC1A plays in chronic consumption with high BALs. Ultimately, this work could lead to new knowledge about alcohol and its associated neuropathology.


2017-2018 - APSA Midwest Regional Meeting Planning Committee

2018-2019 - MSTP Medley & Social Events Committee

2022-2023 - Retreat & I Heart Science Committee


2015 - Medical Student Research Day - The Robert G. Robinson Research Award in Psychiatry “Alcohol Abuse: a role for ASICs?” Mentor: Dr. John Wemmie, Psychiatry

2018 - American Physician Scientist Association Regional Conference - Best Overall Graduate Student Poster Award


2013 - BS, Physics - The College of New Jersey


ORCiD: 0000-0001-6050-0646