CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium, fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in linkage disequilibrium across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of the upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
Nicotinic receptor; alpha5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
Nicotine dependence risk and lung cancer risk are associated with variants in a region of chromosome 15 encompassing genes encoding the nicotinic receptor subunits CHRNA5, CHRNA3 and CHRNB4. To identify potential biological mechanisms that underlie this risk, we tested for cis-acting eQTLs for CHRNA5, CHRNA3 and CHRNB4 in human brain. Using gene expression and disease association studies, we provide evidence that both nicotine-dependence risk and lung cancer risk are influenced by functional variation in CHRNA5. We demonstrated that the risk allele of rs16969968 primarily occurs on the low mRNA expression allele of CHRNA5. The non-risk allele at rs16969968 occurs on both high and low expression alleles tagged by rs588765 within CHRNA5. When the non-risk allele occurs on the background of low mRNA expression of CHRNA5, the risk for nicotine dependence and lung cancer is significantly lower compared to those with the higher mRNA expression. Together, these variants identify three levels of risk associated with CHRNA5. We conclude that there are at least two distinct mechanisms conferring risk for nicotine dependence and lung cancer: altered receptor function caused by a D398N amino acid variant in CHRNA5 (rs16969968) and variability in CHRNA5 mRNA expression.
Genome-wide association studies implicate variations in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 as being associated with nicotine addiction (NA). Multiple common haplotypes (“risk”, “mixed” and “protective”) exist in Europeans; however, high linkage disequilibrium between variations in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 makes assigning causative allele(s) for NA difficult through genotyping experiments alone. We investigated whether CHRNA5 or CHRNA3 promoter haplotypes, associated previously with NA, might influence allelic expression levels. For in vitro analyses, promoter haplotypes were sub-cloned into a luciferase reporter vector. When assessed in BE(2)-C cells, luciferase expression was equivalent among CHRNA3 haplotypes, but the combination of deletion at rs3841324 and variation at rs503464 decreased CHRNA5 promoter-derived luciferase activity, possibly due to loss of an SP-1 and other site(s). Variation within the CHRNA5 5’UTR at rs55853698 and rs55781567 also altered luciferase expression in BE(2)-C cells. Allelic expression imbalance (AEI) from the “risk” or “protective” haplotypes was assessed in post-mortem brain tissue from individuals heterozygous at coding polymorphisms in CHRNA3 (rs1051730) or CHRNA5 (rs16969968). In most cases, equivalent allelic expression was observed; however, one individual showed CHRNA5 AEI that favored the “protective” allele and that was concordant with heterozygosity at polymorphisms ∼13.5 kb upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. Putative enhancer activity from these distal promoter elements was assessed using heterologous promoter constructs. We observed no differences in promoter activity from the two distal promoter haplotypes examined, but found that the distal promoter region strongly repressed transcription. We conclude that CHRNA5 promoter variants may affect relative risk for NA in some heterozygous individuals.
The α7 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit gene (CHRNA7) is localized in a chromosomal region (15q14) linked to schizophrenia in multiple independent studies. CHRNA7 was selected as the best candidate gene in the region for a well-documented endophenotype of schizophrenia, the P50 sensory processing deficit, by genetic linkage and biochemical studies.
Subjects included Caucasian-Non Hispanic and African-American case-control subjects collected in Denver, and schizophrenic subjects from families in the NIMH Genetics Initiative on Schizophrenia. Thirty-five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the 5′-upstream regulatory region of CHRNA7 were genotyped for association with schizophrenia, and for smoking in schizophrenia.
The rs3087454 SNP, located at position −1831 bp in the upstream regulatory region of CHRNA7, was significantly associated with schizophrenia in the case-control samples after multiple-testing correction (P = 0.0009, African American; P = 0.013, Caucasian-Non Hispanic); the association was supported in family members. There was nominal association of this SNP with smoking in schizophrenia.
The data support association of regulatory region polymorphisms in the CHRNA7 gene with schizophrenia.
Nicotinic receptor; Schizophrenia; Polymorphism; Association; Sensory Processing; Alpha 7 nicotinic receptor; Regulatory region; Promoter
Several previous genome-wide and targeted association studies revealed that variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 (CHRNA5/A3/B4) gene cluster on chromosome 15 that encode the α5, α3 and β4 subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChRs) are associated with nicotine dependence (ND) in European Americans (EAs) or others of European origin. Considering the distinct linkage disequilibrium patterns in European and other ethnic populations such as African Americans (AAs), it would be interesting to determine whether such associations exist in other ethnic populations. We performed a comprehensive association and interaction analysis of the CHRNA5/A3/B4 cluster in two ethnic samples to investigate the role of variants in the risk for ND, which was assessed by Smoking Quantity, Heaviness Smoking Index, and Fagerström test for ND. Using a family-based association test, we found a nominal association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs1317286 and rs8040868 in CHRNA3 with ND in the AA and combined AA and EA samples. Furthermore, we found that several haplotypes in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 are nominally associated with ND in AA, EA, and pooled samples. However, none of these associations remained significant after correction for multiple testing. In addition, we performed interaction analysis of SNPs within the CHRNA5/A3/B4 cluster using the pedigree-based generalized multifactor dimensionality reduction method and found significant interactions within CHRNA3 and among the three subunit genes in the AA and pooled samples. Together, these results indicate that variants within CHRNA3 and among CHRNA5, CHRNA3, and CHRNB4 contribute significantly to the etiology of ND through gene-gene interactions, although the association of each subunit gene with ND is weak in both the AA and EA samples.
Association analysis; CHRNA5; CHRNA3; CHRNB4; Interaction analysis; Nicotine dependence; Smoking
The reasons why people smoke are varied, but research has demonstrated that genetic influences on various aspects of nicotine addiction are a major factor. There also is a strong genetic influence on measures of nicotine sensitivity in mice. Despite the established contribution of genetics to nicotine sensitivity in mice and humans, no naturally occurring genetic variation has been identified that demonstrably alters sensitivity to nicotine in either species. However, one genetic variant has been implicated in altering nicotine sensitivity in mice is a T529A polymorphism in Chrna4, the gene that encodes the nicotinic receptor (nAChR) α4 subunit. The Chrna4 T529A polymorphism leads to a threonine to alanine substitution at position 529 of the α4 subunit. To more definitively address whether the Chrna4 T529A polymorphism does, in fact, influence sensitivity to nicotine, knockin mice were generated in which the threonine codon at position 529 was mutated to an alanine codon. Compared to Chrna4 T529 littermate controls, the Chrna4 A529 knockin mice exhibited greater sensitivity to the hypothermic effects of nicotine, reduced oral nicotine consumption and did not develop conditioned place preference to nicotine. The Chrna4 A529 knockin mice also differed from T529 littermates for two parameters of acetylcholine-stimulated 86Rb+ efflux in midbrain: maximal efflux and the percentage of α4β2* receptors with high sensitivity to activation by agonists. Results indicate that the polymorphism affects the function of midbrain α4β2* nAChRs and contributes to individual differences in several behavioral and physiological responses to nicotine thought to be modulated by midbrain α4β2* nAChRs.
Nicotinic receptor; genetics; polymorphism; conditioned place preference; oral consumption; addiction
Only 10-15% of smokers develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which indicates genetic susceptibility to the disease. Recent studies suggested an association between COPD and polymorphisms in CHRNA coding subunits of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Herein, we performed a meta-analysis to clarify the impact of CHRNA variants on COPD.
We searched Web of Knowledge and Medline from 1990 through June 2011 for COPD gene studies reporting variants on CHRNA. Pooled odds ratios (ORs) were calculated using the major allele or genotype as reference group.
Among seven reported variants in CHRNA, rs1051730 was finally analyzed with sufficient studies. Totally 3460 COPD and 11437 controls from 7 individual studies were pooled-analyzed. A-allele of rs1051730 was associated with an increased risk of COPD regardless of smoking exposure (pooled OR = 1.26, 95% CI 1.18-1.34, p < 10-5). At the genotypic level, the ORs gradually increased per A-allele (OR = 1.27 and 1.50 for GA and AA respectively, p < 10-5). Besides, AA genotype exhibited an association with reduced FEV1% predicted (mean difference 3.51%, 95%CI 0.87-6.16%, p = 0.009) and increased risk of emphysema (OR 1.93, 95%CI 1.29-2.90, p = 0.001).
Our findings suggest that rs1051730 in CHRNA is a susceptibility variant for COPD, in terms of both airway obstruction and parenchyma destruction.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); Nicotine acetylcholine receptor (nAChR); CHRNA -; ; Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)
Multiple genome-wide and targeted association studies reveal a significant association of variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 (CHRNA5/A3/B4) gene cluster on chromosome 15 with nicotine dependence. The subjects examined in most of these studies had a European origin. However, considering the distinct linkage disequilibrium patterns in European and other ethnic populations, it would be of tremendous interest to determine whether such associations could be replicated in populations of other ethnicities, such as Asians. In this study, we performed comprehensive association and interaction analyses for 32 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CHRNA5/A3/B4 with smoking initiation (SI), smoking quantity (SQ), and smoking cessation (SC) in a Korean sample (N = 8,842). We found nominally significant associations of 7 SNPs with at least one smoking-related phenotype in the total sample (SI: P = 0.015∼0.023; SQ: P = 0.008∼0.028; SC: P = 0.018∼0.047) and the male sample (SI: P = 0.001∼0.023; SQ: P = 0.001∼0.046; SC: P = 0.01). A spectrum of haplotypes formed by three consecutive SNPs located between rs16969948 in CHRNA5 and rs6495316 in the intergenic region downstream from the 5′ end of CHRNB4 was associated with these three smoking-related phenotypes in both the total and the male sample. Notably, associations of these variants and haplotypes with SC appear to be much weaker than those with SI and SQ. In addition, we performed an interaction analysis of SNPs within the cluster using the generalized multifactor dimensionality reduction method and found a significant interaction of SNPs rs7163730 in LOC123688, rs6495308 in CHRNA3, and rs7166158, rs8043123, and rs11072793 in the intergenic region downstream from the 5′ end of CHRNB4 to be influencing SI in the male sample. Considering that fewer than 5% of the female participants were smokers, we did not perform any analysis on female subjects specifically. Together, our detected associations of variants in the CHRNA5/A3/B4 cluster with SI, SQ, and SC in the Korean smoker samples provide strong evidence for the contribution of this cluster to the etiology of SI, ND, and SC in this Asian population.
Genetic variants located at 15q25, including those in the cholinergic receptor nicotinic cluster (CHRNA5) have been implicated in both lung cancer risk and nicotine dependence in recent genome-wide association studies. Among these variants, a 22 base pair insertion/deletion, rs3841324 showed the strongest association with CHRNA5 mRNA expression levels. However the influence of rs3841324 on lung cancer risk has not been studied in depth.
We have therefore evaluated the association of rs3841324 genotypes with lung cancer risk in a case-control study of 624 Caucasian subjects with lung cancer and 766 age- and sex-matched cancer-free Caucasian controls. We also evaluated the joint effects of rs3841324 with single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs16969968 and rs8034191 in the 15q25 region that have been consistently implicated in lung cancer risk.
We found that the homozygous genotype with both short alleles (SS) of rs3841324 was associated with a decreased lung cancer risk in female ever smokers relative to the homozygous wild-type (LL) and heterozygous (LS) genotypes combined in a recessive model (OR adjusted = 0.55, 95% CI = 0.31–0.89, P = 0.0168). There was no evidence for a sex difference in the association between this variant and cigarettes smoked per day (CPD). Diplotype analysis of rs3841324 with either rs16969968 or rs8034191 showed that these polymorphisms influenced the lung cancer risk independently.
Conclusions and impact
This study has shown a sex difference in the association between the 15q25 variant rs3841324 and lung cancers. Further research is warranted to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these observations.
lung cancer; CHRNA5; Chromosome 15q25; rs3841324; sex-specific association
Genome-wide association studies have linked lung cancer risk with a region of chromosome 15q25.1 containing CHRNA3, CHRNA5 and CHRNB4 encoding α3, α5 and β4 subunits of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), respectively. One of the strongest associations was observed for a non-silent single-nucleotide polymorphism at codon 398 in CHRNA5. Here, we have used pharmacological (antagonists) or genetic (RNA interference) interventions to modulate the activity of CHRNA5 in non-transformed bronchial cells and in lung cancer cell lines. In both cell types, silencing CHRNA5 or inhibiting receptors containing nAChR α5 with α-conotoxin MII exerted a nicotine-like effect, with increased motility and invasiveness in vitro and increasing calcium influx. The effects on motility were enhanced by addition of nicotine but blocked by inhibiting CHRNA7, which encodes the homopentameric receptor α7 subunit. Silencing CHRNA5 also decreased the expression of cell adhesion molecules P120 and ZO-1 in lung cancer cells as well as the expression of DeltaNp63α in squamous cell carcinoma cell lines. These results demonstrate a role for CHRNA5 in modulating adhesion and motility in bronchial cells, as well as in regulating p63, a potential oncogene in squamous cell carcinoma.
A non-synonymous coding polymorphism, rs16969968, of the CHRNA5 gene which encodes the alpha-5 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) has been found to be associated with nicotine dependence (20). The goal of the present study is to examine the association of this variant with cocaine dependence.
Genetic association analysis in two, independent samples of unrelated cases and controls; 1.) 504 European-American participating in the Family Study on Cocaine Dependence (FSCD); 2.) 814 European Americans participating in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholsim (COGA).
In the FSCD, there was a significant association between the CHRNA5 variant and cocaine dependence (OR = 0.67 per allele, p = 0.0045, assuming an additive genetic model), but in the reverse direction compared to that previously observed for nicotine dependence. In multivariate analyses that controlled for the effects of nicotine dependence, both the protective effect for cocaine dependence and the previously documented risk effect for nicotine dependence were statistically significant. The protective effect for cocaine dependence was replicated in the COGA sample. In COGA, effect sizes for habitual smoking, a proxy phenotype for nicotine dependence, were consistent with those observed in FSCD.
The minor (A) allele of rs16969968, relative to the major G allele, appears to be both a risk factor for nicotine dependence and a protective factor for cocaine dependence. The biological plausibility of such a bidirectional association stems from the involvement of nAChRs with both excitatory and inhibitory modulation of dopamine-mediated reward pathways.
Smoking; Nicotine dependence; Addiction; Substance-use disorders; Genetics; Receptors; nicotinic; Cocaine
Genetic association studies have demonstrated the importance of variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit gene cluster on chromosome 15q24-25.1 in risk for nicotine dependence, smoking, and lung cancer in populations of European descent. We have now carried out a detailed study of this region using dense genotyping in both European- and African-Americans.
We genotyped 75 known single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNPs) and one sequencing-discovered SNP in an African-American (AA) sample (N = 710) and European-American (EA) sample (N = 2062). Cases were nicotine-dependent and controls were non-dependent smokers.
The non-synonymous CHRNA5 SNP rs16969968 is the most significant SNP associated with nicotine dependence in the full sample of 2772 subjects (p = 4.49×10−8, OR 1.42 (1.25–1.61)) as well as in AAs only (p = 0.015, OR = 2.04 (1.15–3.62)) and EAs only (p = 4.14×10−7, OR = 1.40 (1.23–1.59)). Other SNPs that have been shown to affect mRNA levels of CHRNA5 in EAs are associated with nicotine dependence in AAs but not in EAs. The CHRNA3 SNP rs578776, which has low correlation with rs16969968, is associated with nicotine dependence in EAs but not in AAs. Less common SNPs (frequency ≤ 5%) also are associated with nicotine dependence.
In summary, multiple variants in this gene cluster contribute to nicotine dependence risk, and some are also associated with functional effects on CHRNA5. The non-synonymous SNP rs16969968, a known risk variant in European-descent populations, is also significantly associated with risk in African-Americans. Additional SNPs contribute in distinct ways to risk in these two populations.
genetic association; smoking; cholinergic nicotinic receptors; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
Smokers have a higher prevalence of major depressive episodes and depressive symptoms than the general population, but whether this association is causal, or is due to confounding or reverse causation is uncertain because of the problems inherent in some epidemiological studies. Mendelian randomization, in which a genetic variant is used as a surrogate for measuring exposure, is an approach which may be used to better understand this association. We investigated the rs1051730 single nucleotide polymorphism in the nicotine acetylcholine receptor gene cluster (CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4), associated with smoking phenotypes, to determine whether women who continued to smoke were also more likely to report a low mood during pregnancy. We found among women who smoked pre-pregnancy, those with the 1051730 T allele smoked more and were less likely to quit smoking during pregnancy, but were also less likely to report high levels of depressed mood at 18 weeks of pregnancy (per allele OR = 0.84, 95%CI 0.72 to 0.99, p = 0.034). The association between genotype and depressed mood was limited to women who were smokers prior to pregnancy, with weak evidence of an interaction between smoking status and genotype (p = 0.07). Our results do not support a causal role of smoking on depressed mood, but are consistent with a self-medication hypothesis, whereby smoking is used to alleviate symptoms of depression. A replication study using multiple genetic variants which influence smoking via different pathways is required to confirm these findings and provide evidence that the genetic variant is reflecting the effect of quitting smoking on depressed mood, and is not directly affecting mood.
Studies using the radio-labeled nicotinic receptor antagonist [125I]-α-bungarotoxin, which binds to α7 subunit containing nicotinic receptors, have demonstrated that mouse strains vary considerably in the number of α7-containing nicotinic receptors in brain. In addition, brain region specific differences in α-bungarotoxin binding between the mouse strains C3H/Ibg and DBA/2 have been linked to polymorphisms in Chrna7, the gene that encodes the α7 subunit. In the studies described here, we evaluated whether the relationship between Chrna7 genotype and individual differences in α–bungarotoxin binding levels in adult brain might be due to an effect of Chrna7 genotype on α7 RNA levels. Quantitative autoradiography of coronal brain slices from F2 mice derived from the parental strains C3H/Ibg and DBA/2 demonstrate that Chrna7 genotype is not linked toα7 RNA levels. In contrast, quantitative autoradiography confirmed the linkage of Chrna7 genotype with α-bungarotoxin binding levels in hippocampus, striatum, and more precisely defined areas within these brain regions where Chrna7 genotype is associated with the level of α-bungarotoxin binding. The fact that Chrna7 genotype is linked to individual differences in α-bungarotoxin binding, but not α7 RNA levels, suggests that the observed linkage between Chrna7 genotype and α-bungarotoxin levels may be due to genetic influences on the post-transcriptional regulation of α7 nicotinic receptor expression.
nicotinic receptor; genetics; mice; gene expression; post-transcriptional
To identify risk variants for lung cancer, we conducted a multistage genome-wide association study. In the discovery phase, we analyzed 315,450 tagging SNPs in 1,154 current and former (ever) smoking cases of European ancestry and 1,137 frequency-matched, ever-smoking controls from Houston, Texas. For replication, we evaluated the ten SNPs most significantly associated with lung cancer in an additional 711 cases and 632 controls from Texas and 2,013 cases and 3,062 controls from the UK. Two SNPs, rs1051730 and rs8034191, mapping to a region of strong linkage disequilibrium within 15q25.1 containing PSMA4 and the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes CHRNA3 and CHRNA5, were significantly associated with risk in both replication sets. Combined analysis yielded odds ratios of 1.32 (P < 1 × 10−17) for both SNPs. Haplotype analysis was consistent with there being a single risk variant in this region. We conclude that variation in a region of 15q25.1 containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors genes contributes to lung cancer risk.
The α7 neuronal nicotinic receptor gene (CHRNA7) has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia by genetic and pharmacological studies. Expression of the α7* receptor, as measured by [125I]α-bungarotoxin autoradiography, is decreased in postmortem brain of schizophrenic subjects compared to non-mentally ill controls. Most schizophrenic patients are heavy smokers, with high levels of serum cotinine. Smoking changes the expression of multiple genes and differentially regulates gene expression in schizophrenic hippocampus. We examined the effects of smoking on CHRNA7 expression in the same tissue and find that smoking differentially regulates expression of both mRNA and protein for this gene. CHRNA7 mRNA and protein levels are significantly lower in schizophrenic nonsmokers compared to control nonsmokers and are brought to control levels in schizophrenic smokers. Sufficient protein but low surface expression of the α7* receptor, seen in the autoradiographic studies, suggests aberrant assembly or trafficking of the receptor.
Nicotinic receptor; Schizophrenia; Smoking; Gene expression; α7; CHRNA7
There are several studies reporting association of alpha-4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (encoded by CHRNA4) with nicotine dependence (ND). A meta-analysis of genomewide linkage studies for ND implicated a single chromosomal region, which includes CHRNA4, as genomewide significant.
After establishing that common variants are unlikely to completely account for this linkage, we investigated the distribution of CHRNA4 rare variants by sequencing the coding exons and flanking intronic regions of CHRNA4 in 209 European American (EA) ND cases and 183 EA controls. Because most of the rare variants that we detected (and all nonsynonymous changes) were in exon 5, we sequenced exon 5 in an additional 1000 ND cases and 1000 non-ND comparison subjects, both of which included equal numbers of EAs and African Americans (AAs).
Comparison subjects had a higher frequency of rare nonsynonymous variants in the exon 5 region (encoding the large intercellular loop of the α4 subunit) (Fisher’s exact test p=0.009; association test p=0.009, OR=0.43; weighted-sum method p=0.014), indicating a protective effect against ND. Considering data from the two stages combined and only nonsynonymous variants predicted to alter protein function, the association was stronger (Fisher’s exact test p=0.005; association test p=0.008, OR=0.29). SPECT imaging results were consistent with functionality.
CHRNA4 functional rare variants may reduce ND risk. This is the first demonstration that rare functional variants at a candidate locus protect against substance dependence, suggesting a novel mechanism of substance dependence heritability that is potentially of general importance.
Nicotine dependence; rare variants; nonsynonymous; CHRNA4; imaging genetics; deep sequencing
Several independent studies show that the chromosome 15q25.1 region, which contains the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster, harbors variants strongly associated with nicotine dependence, other smoking behaviors, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
We investigated whether variants in other cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit (CHRN) genes affect risk for nicotine dependence in a new sample of African-Americans (N = 710). We also analyzed this African-American sample together with a European-American sample (N=2062, 1608 of which have been previously studied), allowing for differing effects in the two populations. Cases are current nicotine-dependent smokers and controls are non-dependent smokers.
Variants in or near CHRND-CHRNG, CHRNA7, and CHRNA10 show modest association with nicotine dependence risk in the African-American sample. In addition, CHRNA4, CHRNB3-CHRNA6, and CHRNB1 show association in at least one population. CHRNG and CHRNA4 harbor SNPs that have opposite directions of effect in the two populations. In each of the population samples, these loci substantially increase the trait variation explained, although no loci meet Bonferroni-corrected significance in the African-American sample alone. The trait variation explained by three key associated SNPs in CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 is 1.9% in European-Americans and also 1.9% in African-Americans; this increases to 4.5% in EAs and 7.3% in AAs when we add six variants representing associations at other CHRN genes.
Multiple nicotinic receptor subunit genes outside of chromosome 15q25 are likely to be important in the biological processes and development of nicotine dependence, and some of these risks may be shared across diverse populations.
genetic association; smoking; cholinergic nicotinic receptors; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
Genetic variation in CHRNA5, the gene encoding the α5 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit, increases vulnerability to tobacco addiction and lung cancer, but underlying mechanisms are unknown. Here, we report dramatically increased nicotine consumption in mice with null mutation in Chrna5. This effect was `rescued' in knockout mice by re-expressing α5 subunits in medial habenula (MHb), and recapitulated in rats through α5 subunit knockdown in MHb. Remarkably, α5 subunit knockdown in MHb did not alter the rewarding effects of nicotine but abolished the inhibitory effects of higher nicotine doses on brain reward systems. The MHb extends projections almost exclusively to the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN). We found diminished IPN activation in response to nicotine in α5 knockout mice and disruption of IPN signaling increased nicotine intake in rats. Our findings suggest that nicotine activates the habenulo-interpeduncular pathway through α5-containing nAChRs, triggering an inhibitory motivational signal that acts to limit nicotine intake.
A locus at 15q24/15q25.1, which includes the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor A subunits 3 and 5 (CHRNA3, CHRNA5) genes, has recently been associated with lung cancer risk, self-reported number of cigarettes smoked per day and a nicotine-dependence scale. It is not clear whether the association with lung cancer is direct or mediated through differences in smoking behavior. We used urinary biomarkers to test whether two linked lung cancer risk variants in CHRNA3 (rs1051730) and CHRNA5 (rs16969968) are associated with intensity of smoking and exposure to a tobacco-specific carcinogenic nitrosamine per cigarette dose. We studied 819 smokers and found that carriers of these variants extract a greater amount of nicotine (p=0.003) and are exposed to a higher internal dose of NNK (p=0.03) per cigarette than non-carriers. Thus, smokers who carry the CHRNA3 and A5 variants are expected to be at increased risk for lung cancer, compared to smokers who do not carry these alleles even if they smoked the same number of cigarettes. Number of cigarettes per day, even if it could be accurately assessed, is not an adequate measure of smoking dose.
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors bind to nicotine and initiate the physiological and pharmacological responses to tobacco smoking. In this report, we studied the association of α5 and α3 subunits with nicotine dependence and with the symptoms of alcohol and cannabis abuse and dependence in two independent epidemiological samples (n = 815 and 1,121, respectively). In this study, seven single nucleotide polymorphisms were genotyped in the CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 genes. In both samples, we found that the same alleles of rs16969968 (P = 0.0068 and 0.0028) and rs1051730 (P = 0.0237 and 0.0039) were significantly associated with the scores of Fagerström test for nicotine dependence (FTND). In the analyses of the symptoms of abuse/dependence of alcohol and cannabis, we found that rs16969968 and rs1051730 were significantly associated with the symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence (P = 0.0072 and 0.0057) in the combined sample, but the associated alleles were the opposite of that of FTND. No association with cannabis abuse/dependence was found. These results suggested that the α5 and α3 subunits play a significant role in both nicotine dependence and alcohol abuse/dependence. However, the opposite effects with nicotine dependence and alcohol abuse/dependence were puzzling and future studies are necessary to resolve this issue.
smoking; alcoholism; cannabis; comorbidity; genetic association
Variants in the CHRNA5–CHRNA3–CHRNB4 gene cluster have been associated with nicotine dependence (ND) and ND-related traits. To evaluate a potential underlying mechanism for this association, we investigated the effects of 10 variants in this gene cluster and their interactive effects as a result of recent smoking on cognitive flexibility, a possible mediator of genetic effects in smokers. Cognitive flexibility of 466 European Americans (EAs; 360 current smokers) and 805 African Americans (AAs; 635 current smokers) was assessed using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. The main effects of variants and haplotypes and their interaction with recent smoking on cognitive flexibility were examined using multivariate analysis of variance and the haplotype analysis program HAPSTAT. In EAs, the major alleles of five variants (CHRNA5-rs3841324–22 bp-insertion-allele, CHRNA5-rs615470-C-allele, CHRNA3-rs6495307-C-allele, CHRNA3-rs2869546-T-allele, and CHRNB4-rs11637890-C-allele) were associated with significantly greater perseverative responses (P=0.003–0.017) and perseverative errors (P=0.004–0.026; recessive effect). Among EAs homozygous for the major alleles of each of these five variants, current smokers made fewer perseverative responses and perseverative errors than did past smokers. Significant interactive effects of four variants (rs3841324, rs615470, rs6495307, and rs2869546) and current smoking on cognitive flexibility were observed (perseverative responses (P=0.010–0.044); perseverative errors (P=0.017–0.050)). However, in AAs, 10 variants in this gene cluster showed no apparent effects on cognitive flexibility. These findings suggest that variation in the CHRNA5–CHRNA3–CHRNB4 gene cluster influences cognitive flexibility differentially in AAs and EAs and that current smoking moderates this effect. These findings could account in part for differences in ND risk associated with these variants in AAs and EAs.
CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4; cognitive flexibility; Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; gene × recent tobacco use; Neurogenetics; Cognition; Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Learning & Memory; WCST; CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4; cognitive flexibility; gene × recent tobacco use
Genetic effects contribute to individual differences in smoking behavior. Persistence to smoke despite known harmful health effects is mostly driven by nicotine addiction. As the physiological effects of nicotine are mediated by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), we aimed at examining whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) residing in nAChR subunit (CHRN) genes, other than CHRNA3/CHRNA5/CHRNB4 gene cluster previously showing association in our sample, are associated with smoking quantity or serum cotinine levels.
The study sample consisted of 485 Finnish adult daily smokers (age 30–75 years, 59% men) assessed for the number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and serum cotinine level. We first studied SNPs residing on selected nAChR subunit genes (CHRNA2, CHRNA4, CHRNA6/CHRNB3, CHRNA7, CHRNA9, CHRNA10, CHRNB2, CHRNG/CHRND) genotyped within a genome-wide association study for single SNP and multiple SNP associations by ordinal regression. Next, we explored individual haplotype associations using sliding window technique.
At one of the 8 loci studied, CHRNG/CHRND (chr2), single SNP (rs1190452), multiple SNP, and 2-SNP haplotype analyses (SNPs rs4973539–rs1190452) all showed statistically significant association with cotinine level. The median cotinine levels varied between the 2-SNP haplotypes from 220 ng/ml (AA haplotype) to 249 ng/ml (AG haplotype). We did not observe significant associations with CPD.
These results provide further evidence that the γ−δ nAChR subunit gene region is associated with cotinine levels but not with the number of CPD, illustrating the usefulness of biomarkers in genetic analyses.
Heavy smoking is a strong predictor of nicotine dependence, which is a major impediment to smoking cessation. Although both heavy smoking and nicotine dependence are highly heritable, previous attempts to identify genes influencing these phenotypes have been largely unsuccessful until very recently. We studied 1,452 heavy smokers (defined as smoking at least 30 cigarettes per day for at least 5 years) and 1,395 light smokers (defined as smoking <5 cigarettes per day for at least 1 year) to investigate the association of common variants in nicotinic receptor subunit genes with smoking behavior. Compared to the most common allele, two separate groups of SNPs in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster were associated with heavy smoking with a very high statistical significance. One group of eight SNPs, that included a nonsynonymous SNP in the CHRNA5 gene, was in strong linkage disequilibrium and associated with increased risk of heavy smoking. A second group of SNPs not strongly correlated with the first was associated with decreased risk of heavy smoking. Analyses that combined both groups of SNPs found associations with heavy smoking that varied by more than two-fold. Our findings identify two loci in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster that predict smoking behavior and provide strong evidence for the involvement of the α5 nicotinic receptor in heavy smoking.
Common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit genes have previously been associated with measures of nicotine dependence. We investigated the contribution of common SNPs and rare single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) in nAChR genes to Fagerström test for nicotine dependence (FTND) scores in treatment-seeking smokers. Exons of 10 genes were resequenced with next-generation sequencing technology in 448 European-American participants of a smoking cessation trial, and CHRNB2 and CHRNA4 were resequenced by Sanger technology to improve sequence coverage. A total of 214 SNP/SNVs were identified, of which 19.2% were excluded from analyses because of reduced completion rate, 73.9% had minor allele frequencies <5%, and 48.1% were novel relative to dbSNP build 129. We tested associations of 173 SNP/SNVs with the FTND score using data obtained from 430 individuals (18 were excluded because of reduced completion rate) using linear regression for common, the cohort allelic sum test and the weighted sum statistic for rare, and the multivariate distance matrix regression method for both common and rare SNP/SNVs. Association testing with common SNPs with adjustment for correlated tests within each gene identified a significant association with two CHRNB2 SNPs, eg, the minor allele of rs2072660 increased the mean FTND score by 0.6 Units (P=0.01). We observed a significant evidence for association with the FTND score of common and rare SNP/SNVs at CHRNA5 and CHRNB2, and of rare SNVs at CHRNA4. Both common and/or rare SNP/SNVs from multiple nAChR subunit genes are associated with the FTND score in this sample of treatment-seeking smokers.
Fagerström test for nicotine dependence; single-nucleotide polymorphism; candidate gene association scan; treatment-seeking smokers; addiction & substance abuse; clinical pharmacology; clinical trials; neurogenetics; acetylcholine