How does alcohol combine with genetics to alter brain development?

Understanding how alcohol interferes with some pregnancies to cause brain abnormalities is difficult because the effect of maternal alcohol varies widely – mostly it has no noticeable consequences but in rare cases it can cause vast differences in brain development. We think that the genetic composition of the embryo is important in determining the effect of maternal alcohol. Using mice we can see whether this is the case, because we can generate cohorts of embryos, each of which vary from each other by just one DNA alteration, and see whether maternal alcohol differentially affects the brain of the developing embryos dependent on their genotype. In this project you will study this gene-environment interaction to try to understand the molecular events by which maternal alcohol can affect the development of some but not all embryos, depending upon their genetic make-up.