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1.  Resequencing of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Genes and Association of Common and Rare Variants with the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(12):2392-2402.
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.
PMCID: PMC3055324  PMID: 20736995
Fagerström test for nicotine dependence; single-nucleotide polymorphism; candidate gene association scan; treatment-seeking smokers; addiction & substance abuse; clinical pharmacology; clinical trials; neurogenetics; acetylcholine
2.  Response to Transdermal Selegiline Smoking Cessation Therapy and Markers in the 15q24 Chromosomal Region 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2015;17(9):1126-1133.
Current treatments for smoking cessation have limited efficacy. A potential pharmaceutical treatment for smoking cessation is selegiline, a selective and irreversible monoamine oxidase B inhibitor. A few clinical trials have been carried out using selegiline but the results have been mixed. We sought to determine if genetic markers in cholinergic loci in the 15q24 chromosomal region predict response to smoking cessation therapy with selegiline.
We performed an 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of the selegiline transdermal system in heavy smokers, with follow-up at weeks 25 and 52. Eight single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the 15q24 region, which contains the genes for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits CHRNA5, CHRNA3, and CHRNB4, were investigated for association with treatment response.
The CHRNB4 promoter SNP rs3813567 was associated with both point prevalence abstinence and post-quit craving. Carriers of the minor C allele treated with selegiline showed lower rates of abstinence and higher levels of craving than selegiline-treated non-carriers, indicating that the rs3813567 C allele adversely affects abstinence in selegiline-treated smokers. This effect was not present among placebo-treated smokers. Selegiline-treated smokers with the CHRNA5 rs680244 GG genotype had lower post-quit craving, and unlike placebo-treated GG-carrying smokers, did not experience a post-quit increase in depressive symptoms.
Variants in genes encoding cholinergic receptors affect abstinence, craving and mood in selegiline-treated smokers. Selegiline primarily affects dopamine levels in the brain, but cholinergic input affects nicotine-induced dopaminergic activity. These markers may have value in identifying those likely to respond to selegiline for smoking cessation.
PMCID: PMC4627483  PMID: 25572450
Genes coding for nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) may influence response to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for smoking cessation. We examined the association of a 3’ UTR polymorphism (rs2072661) in the nAChR β2 subunit (CHRNB2) gene with quitting success in response to nicotine vs. placebo patch during a short-term test of patch effects. In a within-subjects cross-over design, smokers of European descent (n = 156) received 21 mg nicotine and placebo patch, in counter-balanced order, during two separate 5-day simulated quit attempts, each preceded by a week of ad lib smoking. Abstinence was assessed daily by carbon monoxide (CO) < 5 ppm. Smokers with the CHRNB2 GG genotype had more days of abstinence during the nicotine versus placebo patch week, compared to those with the AG or AA genotypes (p<.01). Moreover, nicotine patch increased the probability of quitting on the target quit day, quitting anytime during the patch week, and avoiding relapse among those with the GG genotype but not the AA/AG genotypes, although the nicotine x genotype interaction was significant only for quitting on the target quit day (p<.05). Regardless of patch condition, quitting on the target quit day was more likely in those with the GG genotype vs. AA/AG genotypes (p<.05). Genetic associations were not observed for craving or withdrawal responses to nicotine versus placebo patch. These findings are consistent with prior evidence of association of this variant with smoking cessation and suggest that polymorphisms in the nAChR β2 subunit gene may influence therapeutic responsiveness to cessation medications.
PMCID: PMC2759850  PMID: 19755656
CHRNB2; pharmacogenetics; nicotine replacement; smoking cessation
4.  Multiple Distinct Risk Loci for Nicotine Dependence Identified by Dense Coverage of the Complete Family of Nicotinic Receptor Subunit (CHRN) Genes 
Tobacco smoking continues to be a leading cause of preventable death. Recent research has underscored the important role of specific cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit (CHRN) genes in risk for nicotine dependence and smoking. To detect and characterize the influence of genetic variation on vulnerability to nicotine dependence, we analyzed 226 SNPs covering the complete family of 16 CHRN genes, which encode the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits, in a sample of 1050 nicotine-dependent cases and 879 non-dependent controls of European descent. This expanded SNP coverage has extended and refined the findings of our previous large scale genome-wide association and candidate gene study. After correcting for the multiple tests across this gene family, we found significant association for two distinct loci in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster, one locus in the CHRNB3-CHRNA6 gene cluster, and a fourth, novel locus in the CHRND-CHRNG gene cluster. The two distinct loci in CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 are represented by the non-synonymous SNP rs16969968 in CHRNA5 and by rs578776 in CHRNA3, respectively, and joint analyses show that the associations at these two SNPs are statistically independent. Nominally significant single-SNP association was detected in CHRNA4 and CHRNB1. In summary, this is the most comprehensive study of the CHRN genes for involvement with nicotine dependence to date. Our analysis reveals significant evidence for at least four distinct loci in the nicotinic receptor subunit genes that each influence the transition from smoking to nicotine dependence and may inform the development of improved smoking cessation treatments and prevention initiatives.
PMCID: PMC2693307  PMID: 19259974
cholinergic nicotinic receptors; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; smoking; genetic association
5.  Genetic association of bipolar disorder with the β3 nicotinic receptor subunit gene 
Psychiatric genetics  2011;21(2):77-84.
Owing to the clinical relationship between bipolar disorder and nicotine dependence, we investigated two research questions: (i) are genetic associations with nicotine dependence different in individuals with bipolar disorder as compared with individuals without bipolar disorder, and (ii) do loci earlier associated with nicotine dependence have pleiotropic effects on these two diseases.
Our study consisted of 916 cases with bipolar disorder and 1028 controls. On the basis of known associations with nicotine dependence, we genotyped eight single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on chromosome 8 (three bins) in the regions of CHRNB3 and CHRNA6, and six SNPs on chromosome 15 (three bins) in the regions of CHRNA5 and CHRNA3.
To determine whether the genetic associations with nicotine dependence are different in bipolar disorder than in the general population, we compared allele frequencies of candidate SNPs between individuals with nicotine dependence only and individuals with both nicotine dependence and bipolar disorder. There were no statistical differences between these frequencies, indicating that genetic association with nicotine dependence is similar in individuals with bipolar disorder as in the general population. In the investigation of pleiotropic effects of these SNPs on bipolar disorder, two highly correlated synonymous SNPs in CHRNB3, rs4952 and rs4953, were significantly associated with bipolar disorder (odds ratio 1.7, 95% confidence interval: 1.2–2.4, P = 0.001). This association remained significant both after adjusting for a smoking covariate and analyzing the association in nonsmokers only.
Our results suggest that (i) bipolar disorder does not modify the association between nicotine dependence and nicotinic receptor subunit genes, and (ii) variants in CHRNB3/CHRNA6 are independently associated with bipolar disorder. Psychiatr Genet 00:000–000.
PMCID: PMC3107398  PMID: 21191315
analyses; CHRNA3; CHRNA5; CHRNA6; genetic association; nicotine; tobacco use disorder
6.  Smoking Cessation Pharmacogenetics: Analysis of Varenicline and Bupropion in Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2011;37(3):641-650.
Despite effective therapies for smoking cessation, most smokers find quitting difficult and most successful quitters relapse. Considerable evidence supports a genetic risk for nicotine dependence; however, less is known about the pharmacogenetics of smoking cessation. In the first pharmacogenetic investigation of the efficacy of varenicline and bupropion, we examined whether genes important in the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of these drugs and nicotine predict medication efficacy and adverse events. Subjects participated in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled smoking cessation clinical trials, comparing varenicline, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) partial agonist, with bupropion, a norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitor, and placebo. Primary analysis included 1175 smokers of European ancestry, and 785 single nucleotide polymorphisms from 24 genes, representing 254 linkage disequilibrium (LD) bins (genes included nAChR subunits, additional varenicline-specific genes, and genes involved in nicotine or bupropion metabolism). For varenicline, continuous abstinence (weeks 9–12) was associated with multiple nAChR subunit genes (including CHRNB2, CHRNA5, and CHRNA4) (OR=1.76; 95% CI: 1.23–2.52) (p<0.005); for bupropion, abstinence was associated with CYP2B6 (OR=1.78; 95% CI: 1.27–2.50) (p<0.001). Incidence of nausea was associated with several nAChR subunit genes (OR=0.50; 95% CI: 0.36–0.70) (p<0.0001) and time to relapse after quitting was associated with HTR3B (HR=1.97; 95% CI: 1.45–2.68) (p<0.0001). These data provide evidence for multiple genetic loci contributing to smoking cessation and therapeutic response. Different loci are associated with varenicline vs bupropion response, suggesting that additional research may identify clinically useful markers to guide treatment decisions.
PMCID: PMC3260990  PMID: 22048466
varenicline; bupropion; pharmacogenetics; nicotine; nicotinic receptor; CYP2B6; pharmacogenetics/pharmacogenomics; addiction and substance abuse; clinical pharmacology/clinical trials; neuropharmacology; varenicline; bupropion; nicotine; smoking cessation; nicotinic receptors
7.  Habenular expression of rare missense variants of the β4 nicotinic receptor subunit alters nicotine consumption 
The CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster, encoding the α5, α3, and β4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits, has been linked to nicotine dependence. The habenulo-interpeduncular (Hb-IPN) tract is particularly enriched in α3β4 nAChRs. We recently showed that modulation of these receptors in the medial habenula (MHb) in mice altered nicotine consumption. Given that β4 is rate-limiting for receptor activity and that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CHRNB4 have been linked to altered risk of nicotine dependence in humans, we were interested in determining the contribution of allelic variants of β4 to nicotine receptor activity in the MHb. We screened for missense SNPs that had allele frequencies >0.0005 and introduced the corresponding substitutions in Chrnb4. Fourteen variants were analyzed by co-expression with α3. We found that β4A90I and β4T374I variants, previously shown to associate with reduced risk of smoking, and an additional variant β4D447Y, significantly increased nicotine-evoked current amplitudes, while β4R348C, the mutation most frequently encountered in sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (sALS), showed reduced nicotine currents. We employed lentiviruses to express β4 or β4 variants in the MHb. Immunoprecipitation studies confirmed that β4 lentiviral-mediated expression leads to specific upregulation of α3β4 but not β2 nAChRs in the Mhb. Mice injected with the β4-containing virus showed pronounced aversion to nicotine as previously observed in transgenic Tabac mice overexpressing Chrnb4 at endogenous sites including the MHb. Habenular expression of the β4 gain-of-function allele T374I also resulted in strong aversion, while transduction with the β4 loss-of function allele R348C failed to induce nicotine aversion. Altogether, these data confirm the critical role of habenular β4 in nicotine consumption, and identify specific SNPs in CHRNB4 that modify nicotine-elicited currents and alter nicotine consumption in mice.
PMCID: PMC3902282  PMID: 24478678
medial habenula; nicotine consumption; SNP; lentivirus transduction; electrophysiological recordings; smoking dependence
8.  Varenicline for Smoking Cessation: Nausea Severity and Variation in Nicotinic Receptor Genes 
The pharmacogenomics journal  2011;12(4):349-358.
This study evaluated association between common and rare sequence variants in 10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes and the severity of nausea 21 days after initiating the standard, FDA-approved varenicline regimen for smoking cessation. Included in the analysis were 397 participants from a randomized clinical effectiveness trial with complete clinical and DNA resequencing data (mean age = 49.2 years; 68.0% female). Evidence for significant association between common sequence variants in CHRNB2 and nausea severity was obtained after adjusting for age, gender, and correlated tests (all PACT<.05). Individuals with the minor allele of CHRNB2 variants experienced less nausea than did those without the minor allele, consistent with previously reported findings for CHRNB2 and the occurrence of nausea and dizziness as a consequence of first smoking attempt in adolescents, and with the known neurophysiology of nausea. As nausea is the most common reason for discontinuance of varenicline, further pharmacogenetic investigations are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3405554  PMID: 21606948
varenicline; nausea; smoking cessation; adherence
9.  Pharmacogenetic Association of the Galanin Receptor (GALR1) SNP rs2717162 with Smoking Cessation 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2012;37(7):1683-1688.
Galanin modulates dopaminergic neurotransmission in the mesolimbic dopamine system, thereby influencing the rewarding effects of nicotine. Variants in the galanin receptor 1 (GALR1) gene have been associated with retrospective craving severity and heaviness of smoking in prior research. We investigated pharmacogenetic associations of the previously studied GALR1 polymorphism, rs2717162, in 1217 smokers of European ancestry who participated in one of three pharmacogenetic smoking cessation clinical trials and were treated with nicotine patch (n=623), nicotine nasal spray (n=189), bupropion (n=213), or placebo (n=192). The primary endpoint was abstinence (7-day point prevalence, biochemically confirmed) at the end of treatment. Cravings to smoke were assessed on the target quit day (TQD). The longitudinal regression model revealed a significant genotype by treatment interaction (P=0.03). There was a reduced odds of quitting success with the presence of at least one minor (C) allele in the bupropion-treated group (OR=0.43; 95% CI=0.22–0.77; P=0.005) but equivalent quit rates by genotype in the nicotine-replacement therapy groups. This genotype by treatment interaction was reproduced in a Cox regression model of time to relapse (P=0.04). In the bupropion trial, smokers carrying the C allele also reported more severe TQD cravings. Further research to identify functional variants in GALR1 and to replicate pharmacogenetic associations is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3358736  PMID: 22373943
nicotine; addiction; craving; pharmacogenetics; galanin receptor; behavioral science; neurogenetics; pharmacogenetics / pharmacogenomics; psychiatry & behavioral sciences; nicotine; addiction; craving; pharmacogenetics; galanin receptor 1
10.  Convergent Evidence that Choline Acetyltransferase Gene Variation is Associated with Prospective Smoking Cessation and Nicotine Dependence 
The ability to quit smoking is heritable, yet few genetic studies have investigated prospective smoking cessation. We conducted a systems-based genetic association analysis in a sample of 472 treatment-seeking smokers of European ancestry following eight weeks of transdermal nicotine therapy for smoking cessation. The genotyping panel included 169 SNPs in 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes and 4 genes in the endogenous cholinergic system. The primary outcome was smoking cessation (biochemically confirmed) at the end of treatment. SNPs clustered in the choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) gene were individually identified as nominally significant, and a 5-SNP haplotype (block 6) in ChAT was found to be significantly associated with quitting success. Single SNPs in ChAT haplotype block 2 were also associated with pre-treatment levels of nicotine dependence in this cohort. To replicate associations of SNPs in haplotype blocks 2 and 6 of ChAT with nicotine dependence in a non treatment-seeking cohort, we utilized data from an independent community-based sample of 629 smokers representing 200 families of European ancestry. Significant SNP and haplotype associations were identified for multiple measures of nicotine dependence. Although the effect sizes in both cohorts are modest, converging data across cohorts and phenotypes suggest that ChAT may be involved in nicotine dependence and ability to quit smoking. Additional sequencing and characterization of ChAT may reveal functional variants that contribute to nicotine dependence and smoking cessation.
PMCID: PMC2855736  PMID: 20147892
nicotine; smoking cessation; choline acetyltransferase ChAT; pharmacogenetics; addiction
11.  Convergent Evidence that Choline Acetyltransferase Gene Variation is Associated with Prospective Smoking Cessation and Nicotine Dependence 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(6):1374-1382.
The ability to quit smoking is heritable, yet few genetic studies have investigated prospective smoking cessation. We conducted a systems-based genetic association analysis in a sample of 472 treatment-seeking smokers of European ancestry after 8 weeks of transdermal nicotine therapy for smoking cessation. The genotyping panel included 169 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes and 4 genes in the endogenous cholinergic system. The primary outcome was smoking cessation (biochemically confirmed) at the end of treatment. SNPs clustered in the choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) gene were individually identified as nominally significant, and a 5-SNP haplotype (block 6) in ChAT was found to be significantly associated with quitting success. Single SNPs in ChAT haplotype block 2 were also associated with pretreatment levels of nicotine dependence in this cohort. To replicate associations of SNPs in haplotype blocks 2 and 6 of ChAT with nicotine dependence in a non-treatment-seeking cohort, we used data from an independent community-based sample of 629 smokers representing 200 families of European ancestry. Significant SNP and haplotype associations were identified for multiple measures of nicotine dependence. Although the effect sizes in both cohorts are modest, converging data across cohorts and phenotypes suggest that ChAT may be involved in nicotine dependence and ability to quit smoking. Additional sequencing and characterization of ChAT may reveal functional variants that contribute to nicotine dependence and smoking cessation.
PMCID: PMC2855736  PMID: 20147892
nicotine; smoking cessation; choline acetyltransferase ChAT; pharmacogenetics; addiction; Pharmacogenetics/Pharmacogenomics; Addiction & Substance Abuse; Clinical Pharmacology/Trials; Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Nicotine; Smoking Cessation; choline acetyltransferase ChAT
12.  Crucial roles of the CHRNB3–CHRNA6 gene cluster on chromosome 8 in nicotine dependence: update and subjects for future research 
Translational Psychiatry  2016;6(6):e843-.
Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of preventable death throughout the world. Nicotine, the primary addictive compound in tobacco, plays a vital role in the initiation and maintenance of its use. Nicotine exerts its pharmacological roles through nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), which are ligand-gated ion channels consisting of five membrane-spanning subunits. Besides the CHRNA4, CHRNB2 and CHRNA5/A3/B4 cluster on chromosome 15, which has been investigated intensively, recent evidence from both genome-wide association studies and candidate gene-based association studies has revealed the crucial roles of the CHRNB3–CHRNA6 gene cluster on chromosome 8 in nicotine dependence (ND). These studies demonstrate two distinct loci within this region. The first one is tagged by rs13277254, upstream of the CHRNB3 gene, and the other is tagged by rs4952, a coding single nucleotide polymorphism in exon 5 of that gene. Functional studies by genetic manipulation in mice have shown that α6*-nAChRs, located in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), are of great importance in controlling nicotine self-administration. However, when the α6 subunit is selectively re-expressed in the VTA of the α6−/− mouse by a lentiviral vector, the reinforcing property of nicotine is restored. To further determine the role of α6*-nAChRs in the process of nicotine-induced reward and withdrawal, genetic knock-in strains have been examined, which showed that replacement of Leu with Ser in the 9′ residue in the M2 domain of α6 produces nicotine-hypersensitive mice (α6 L9′S) with enhanced dopamine release. Moreover, nicotine-induced upregulation may be another ingredient in the pathology of nicotine addiction although the effect of chronic nicotine exposure on the expression of α6-containing receptors is controversial. To gain a better understanding of the pathological processes underlying ND and ND-related behaviors and to promote the development of effective smoking cessation therapies, we here present the most recent studies concerning the genetic effects of the CHRNB3–CHRNA6 gene cluster in ND.
PMCID: PMC4931601  PMID: 27327258
13.  The β3 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor: modulation of gene expression and nicotine consumption 
Neuropharmacology  2015;99:639-649.
Genetic factors explain approximately half of the variance in smoking behaviors, but the molecular mechanism by which genetic variation influences behavior is poorly understood. SNPs in the putative promoter region of CHRNB3, the gene that encodes the β3 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), have been repeatedly associated with tobacco behaviors. In this work we sought to identify putative function of three SNPs in the promoter region of CHRNB3 on in vitro gene expression. Additionally, we used β3 null mutant mice as a model of reduced gene expression to assess the effects on nicotine behaviors. The effect of rs13277254, rs6474413, and rs4950 on reporter gene expression was examined using a luciferase reporter assay. A major and minor parent haplotype served as the background on which alleles at the three SNPs were flipped onto different backgrounds (e.g. minor allele on major haplotype background). Constructs were tested in three human cell lines: BE(2)-C, SH-SY5Y and HEK 293T. In all cell types the major haplotype led to greater reporter gene expression compared to the minor haplotype, and results indicate that this effect is driven by rs6474413. Moreover, mice lacking the β3 subunit showed reduced voluntary nicotine consumption compared that of wildtype animals. These data provide evidence that the protective genetic variant at rs6474413 identified in human genetic studies reduces gene expression and that decreased β3 gene expression in mice reduces nicotine intake. This work contributes to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that contribute to the human genetic associations of nicotine behaviors.
PMCID: PMC4655151  PMID: 26318101
Nicotine; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; consumption; luciferase; gene expression
14.  Genetic association of the CHRNA6 and CHRNB3 genes with tobacco dependence in a nationally representative sample 
Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are activated by both endogenous acetylcholine and exogenous nicotine, making sequence variations in these receptors likely candidates for association with tobacco phenotypes. Previous studies have found evidence for significant association between SNPs in the genomic region containing the CHRNA6 and CHRNB3 genes and tobacco behaviors (Bierut et al, 2007; Greenbaum et al, 2006; Saccone et al, 2007; Zeiger et al, 2008). In this study, we provide support for an association between these genes and tobacco dependence in the National Youth Survey Family Study wave 10, a nationally representative sample of households. Eight single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CHRNA6 and CHRNB3 genomic region were genotyped in 1051 subjects, approximately half of whom are members of sibling pairs. Genetic association with DSM-IV dependence was assessed using a family-based approach as implemented in the statistical package PBAT. Individual SNPs were tested for association with quit attempts and overall dependence. Variation in CHRNA6 was found to be associated with tobacco dependence (p=0.007 in Caucasians). SNPs in CHRNB3 were found to be associated with the number of quit attempts (p=0.0024). Together these results further implicate the region downstream of CHRNA6 and the region upstream of CHRNB3 in risk of nicotine dependence.
PMCID: PMC2915837  PMID: 18704094
Nicotinic receptors; SNP; Genetic association; Tobacco use; Nicotine Dependence
15.  Associations of Nicotine Intake Measures With CHRN Genes in Finnish Smokers 
Nicotine & Tobacco Research  2011;13(8):686-690.
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.
PMCID: PMC3150688  PMID: 21498873
16.  Gene variance in the nicotinic receptor cluster (CHRNA5‐CHRNA3‐CHRNB4) predicts death from cardiopulmonary disease and cancer in smokers 
Journal of Internal Medicine  2015;279(4):388-398.
Genetic variation in the cluster on chromosome 15, encoding the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits (CHRNA5‐CHRNA3‐CHRNB4), has shown strong associations with tobacco consumption and an additional risk increase in smoking‐related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), peripheral artery disease and lung cancer.
To test whether rs1051730 (C/T), a tag for multiple variants in the CHRNA5‐CHRNA3‐CHRNB3 cluster, is associated with a change in risk of smoking‐related mortality and morbidity in the Malmö Diet and Cancer study, a population‐based prospective cohort study.
At baseline participants were classified as current (n = 6951), previous (n = 8426) or never (n = 9417) smokers. Cox‐proportional hazards models were used to determine the correlation between rs1051730 and incidence of first COPD, tobacco‐related cancer, other cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD), and total mortality due to these causes, during approximately 14 years of follow‐up.
Amongst current smokers there were 480 first incident COPD events, 852 tobacco‐related cancers, 810 other cancers and 1022 CVD events. A total of 1508 deaths occurred, including 500 due to CVD, 102 due to respiratory diseases and 677 due to cancer. In adjusted additive models, an increasing number of T alleles were associated with a gradual increase in total mortality, incident COPD and tobacco‐related cancer, even after adjustment for smoking quantity. No significant associations were observed amongst never smokers.
Our data suggest that gene variance in the CHRNA5‐CHRNA3‐CHRNB4 cluster is associated with an increased risk of death, incidence of COPD and tobacco‐related cancer in smokers. These findings indicate an individual susceptibility to tobacco use and its complications; this may be important when targeting and designing smoking cessation therapies.
PMCID: PMC5019278  PMID: 26689306
CHRNA; COPD; epidemiology; smoking genetics; tobacco‐related cancer
17.  Interplay of Genetic Risk Factors (CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4) and Cessation Treatments in Smoking Cessation Success 
The American journal of psychiatry  2012;169(7):735-742.
Smoking is highly intractable and the genetic influences on cessation are unclear. Identifying the genetic factors affecting smoking cessation could elucidate the nature of tobacco dependence, enhance risk assessment, and support treatment algorithm development. This study tests whether variants in the nicotinic receptor gene cluster (CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4) predict age of smoking cessation and relapse to smoking after a quit attempt.
In a community-based, cross-sectional study (N=5,216) and a randomized comparative effectiveness smoking cessation trial (N=1,073), we used survival analyses and logistic regression to model relations between smoking cessation (self-reported quit age in a community study and point-prevalence abstinence at end-of-treatment in a clinical trial) and three common haplotypes in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 region defined by rs16969968 and rs680244.
The genetic variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 region that predict nicotine dependence also predict a later age of smoking cessation in a community-based sample (X2=8.46, df=2, p=0.015). In the smoking cessation trial, these variants predict abstinence at end-of-treatment in individuals receiving placebo medication, but not amongst individuals receiving active medication. Genetic variants interact with treatment in affecting cessation success (X2=8.97, df=2, p=0.011).
Smokers with the high risk genetic variants have a three-fold increased likelihood of responding to pharmacologic cessation treatments, compared to smokers with the low risk genetic variants. The high-risk variants increase the risk of cessation failure, and this increased risk can be ameliorated by cessation pharmacotherapy. By identifying a high-risk genetic group with heightened response to smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, this work may support the development of personalized cessation treatments.
PMCID: PMC3433845  PMID: 22648373
18.  CHRNB2 Promoter Region: Association with subjective effects to nicotine and expression differences 
Genes, Brain, and Behavior  2010;10(2):176-185.
Smoking behavior is complex, and includes multiple stages in the progression from experimentation to continued use and dependence. The experience of subjective effects, such as dizziness, euphoria, heart pounding, nausea, and high, have been associated with varying degrees of persistence and subsequent abuse/dependence of marijuana, cocaine, tobacco and alcohol (Grant et al., 2005, Wagner & Anthony, 2002). Previous studies have reported associations between neuronal nicotinic receptor (CHRN) genes and subjective effects to nicotine. We sought to replicate and expand this work by examining eight SNPs in a sample of adult smokers (n=316) who reported subjective effects following cigarette smoking in a controlled laboratory environment. Two SNPs each in the CHRNB2, CHRNB3, CHRNA6 and CHRNA4 genes were examined. A significant association was found between two SNPs and physical effects reported after smoking the first experimental cigarette. SNP rs2072658 is upstream of CHRNB2 (p value = 0.0046) and rs2229959 is a synonymous change in exon 5 of CHRNA4 (p value = 0.0051). We also examined possible functional relevance of SNP rs2072658 using an in vitro gene expression assay. These studies provided evidence that the minor allele of rs2072658 may lead to decreased gene expression, using two separate cell lines, P19 and SH-SY5Y cell lines (18% p<0.001 and 26% p<0.001 respectively). The human genetic study and functional assays suggest that variation in the promoter region of CHRNB2 gene may be important in mediating levels of expression of the β2 nicotinic receptor subunit, which may be associated with variation in subjective response to nicotine.
PMCID: PMC3403289  PMID: 20854418
Nicotinic receptors; SNP; Genetic association; Tobacco use; Subjective effects
19.  Pharmacogenetics of smoking cessation: role of nicotine target and metabolism genes 
Human genetics  2012;10.1007/s00439-012-1143-9.
Many smokers attempt to quit smoking but few are successful in the long term. The heritability of nicotine addiction and smoking relapse have been documented, and research is focused on identifying specific genetic influences on the ability to quit smoking and response to specific medications. Research in genetically modified cell lines and mice has identified nicotine acetylcholine receptor subtypes that mediate the pharmacological and behavioral effects of nicotine sensitivity and withdrawal. Human genetic association studies have identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes encoding nicotine acetylcholine receptor subunits and nicotine metabolizing enzymes that influence smoking cessation phenotypes. There is initial promising evidence for a role in smoking cessation for SNPs in the β2 and α5/α3/β4 nAChR subunit genes; however, effects are small and not consistently replicated. There are reproducible and clinically significant associations of genotypic and phenotypic measures of CYP2A6 enzyme activity and nicotine metabolic rate with smoking cessation as well as response to nicotine replacement therapies and bupropion. Prospective clinical trials to identify associations of genetic variants and gene–gene interactions on smoking cessation are needed to generate the evidence base for both medication development and targeted therapy approaches based on genotype.
PMCID: PMC3864572  PMID: 22290489
20.  Molecular genetics of nicotine dependence and abstinence: whole genome association using 520,000 SNPs 
BMC Genetics  2007;8:10.
Classical genetic studies indicate that nicotine dependence is a substantially heritable complex disorder. Genetic vulnerabilities to nicotine dependence largely overlap with genetic vulnerabilities to dependence on other addictive substances. Successful abstinence from nicotine displays substantial heritable components as well. Some of the heritability for the ability to quit smoking appears to overlap with the genetics of nicotine dependence and some does not. We now report genome wide association studies of nicotine dependent individuals who were successful in abstaining from cigarette smoking, nicotine dependent individuals who were not successful in abstaining and ethnically-matched control subjects free from substantial lifetime use of any addictive substance.
These data, and their comparison with data that we have previously obtained from comparisons of four other substance dependent vs control samples support two main ideas: 1) Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) whose allele frequencies distinguish nicotine-dependent from control individuals identify a set of genes that overlaps significantly with the set of genes that contain markers whose allelic frequencies distinguish the four other substance dependent vs control groups (p < 0.018). 2) SNPs whose allelic frequencies distinguish successful vs unsuccessful abstainers cluster in small genomic regions in ways that are highly unlikely to be due to chance (Monte Carlo p < 0.00001).
These clustered SNPs nominate candidate genes for successful abstinence from smoking that are implicated in interesting functions: cell adhesion, enzymes, transcriptional regulators, neurotransmitters and receptors and regulation of DNA, RNA and proteins. As these observations are replicated, they will provide an increasingly-strong basis for understanding mechanisms of successful abstinence, for identifying individuals more or less likely to succeed in smoking cessation efforts and for tailoring therapies so that genotypes can help match smokers with the treatments that are most likely to benefit them.
PMCID: PMC1853105  PMID: 17407593
21.  CHRNA4 rs1044396 is associated with smoking cessation in varenicline therapy 
Background: The large individual variability in response to drugs for smoking cessation suggests that specific treatments can be more effective in particular subgroups of smokers. In the context of personalized medicine, the main aim of the present study was to evaluate whether the CHRNA4 and CHRNB2 polymorphisms are associated with response to smoking cessation therapies in patients from a smoker assistance program.
Methods: This cohort study enrolled 483 smoking patients who received behavioral counseling and drug treatment (varenicline, bupropion, and/or nicotine replacement therapy). Smoking cessation success was considered for patients who completed 6 months of continuous abstinence. Fagerström test for nicotine dependence (FTND) and Issa situational smoking scores were analyzed for nicotine dependence. The CHRNA4 (rs1044396 and rs2236196) and CHRNB2 (rs2072660 and rs2072661) polymorphisms were genotyped by high resolution melting analysis.
Results: Patients with rs1044396 CC genotype had lower success rate in treatment with varenicline (29.5%) compared with carriers of CT or TT genotypes (50.9%; p = 0.007, n = 167). The CT or TT genotypes were associated with higher odds ratio for success (OR = 1.67, 95% CI = 1.10–2.53, p = 0.02), in a multivariate model. We did not observe significant differences in the FTND and Issa scores according to the studied polymorphisms.
Conclusion: The CHRNA4 rs1044396 is associated with smoking cessation in individuals on varenicline therapy. We suggest that this polymorphism influences the varenicline response, but replications of this finding are needed.
PMCID: PMC4343187  PMID: 25774163
varenicline; pharmacogenetic; smoking cessation; polymorphism; CHRNA4; CHRNB2
22.  Nicotinic Receptor Gene Variants Influence Susceptibility to Heavy Smoking 
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.
PMCID: PMC2614129  PMID: 19029397
23.  Multiple Independent Loci at Chromosome 15q25.1 Affect Smoking Quantity: a Meta-Analysis and Comparison with Lung Cancer and COPD 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(8):e1001053.
Recently, genetic association findings for nicotine dependence, smoking behavior, and smoking-related diseases converged to implicate the chromosome 15q25.1 region, which includes the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit genes. In particular, association with the nonsynonymous CHRNA5 SNP rs16969968 and correlates has been replicated in several independent studies. Extensive genotyping of this region has suggested additional statistically distinct signals for nicotine dependence, tagged by rs578776 and rs588765. One goal of the Consortium for the Genetic Analysis of Smoking Phenotypes (CGASP) is to elucidate the associations among these markers and dichotomous smoking quantity (heavy versus light smoking), lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We performed a meta-analysis across 34 datasets of European-ancestry subjects, including 38,617 smokers who were assessed for cigarettes-per-day, 7,700 lung cancer cases and 5,914 lung-cancer-free controls (all smokers), and 2,614 COPD cases and 3,568 COPD-free controls (all smokers). We demonstrate statistically independent associations of rs16969968 and rs588765 with smoking (mutually adjusted p-values<10−35 and <10−8 respectively). Because the risk alleles at these loci are negatively correlated, their association with smoking is stronger in the joint model than when each SNP is analyzed alone. Rs578776 also demonstrates association with smoking after adjustment for rs16969968 (p<10−6). In models adjusting for cigarettes-per-day, we confirm the association between rs16969968 and lung cancer (p<10−20) and observe a nominally significant association with COPD (p = 0.01); the other loci are not significantly associated with either lung cancer or COPD after adjusting for rs16969968. This study provides strong evidence that multiple statistically distinct loci in this region affect smoking behavior. This study is also the first report of association between rs588765 (and correlates) and smoking that achieves genome-wide significance; these SNPs have previously been associated with mRNA levels of CHRNA5 in brain and lung tissue.
Author Summary
Nicotine binds to cholinergic nicotinic receptors, which are composed of a variety of subunits. Genetic studies for smoking behavior and smoking-related diseases have implicated a genomic region that encodes the alpha5, alpha3, and beta4 subunits. We examined genetic data across this region for over 38,000 smokers, a subset of which had been assessed for lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We demonstrate strong evidence that there are at least two statistically independent loci in this region that affect risk for heavy smoking. One of these loci represents a change in the protein structure of the alpha5 subunit. This work is also the first to report strong evidence of association between smoking and a group of genetic variants that are of biological interest because of their links to expression of the alpha5 cholinergic nicotinic receptor subunit gene. These advances in understanding the genetic influences on smoking behavior are important because of the profound public health burdens caused by smoking and nicotine addiction.
PMCID: PMC2916847  PMID: 20700436
24.  A common genetic variant in the 15q24 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene cluster (CHRNA5–CHRNA3–CHRNB4) is associated with a reduced ability of women to quit smoking in pregnancy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(15):2922-2927.
Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Women are more likely to quit smoking during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives, but some pregnant women continue to smoke. A recent genome-wide association study demonstrated an association between a common polymorphism (rs1051730) in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene cluster (CHRNA5–CHRNA3–CHRNB4) and both smoking quantity and nicotine dependence. We aimed to test whether the same polymorphism that predisposes to greater cigarette consumption would also reduce the likelihood of smoking cessation in pregnancy. We studied 7845 pregnant women of European descent from the South-West of England. Using 2474 women who smoked regularly immediately pre-pregnancy, we analysed the association between the rs1051730 risk allele and both smoking cessation during pregnancy and smoking quantity. Each additional copy of the risk allele was associated with a 1.27-fold higher odds (95% CI 1.11–1.45) of continued smoking during pregnancy (P = 0.0006). Adjustment for pre-pregnancy smoking quantity weakened, but did not remove this association [odds ratio (OR) 1.20 (95% CI 1.03–1.39); P = 0.018]. The same risk allele was also associated with heavier smoking before pregnancy and in the first, but not the last, trimester [OR for smoking 10+ cigarettes/day versus 1–9/day in first trimester = 1.30 (95% CI 1.13–1.50); P = 0.0003]. To conclude, we have found strong evidence of association between the rs1051730 variant and an increased likelihood of continued smoking in pregnancy and have confirmed the previously observed association with smoking quantity. Our data support the role of genetic factors in influencing smoking cessation during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC2706684  PMID: 19429911
25.  Nominal Association with CHRNA4 Variants and Nicotine Dependence 
Genes, brain, and behavior  2013;12(3):10.1111/gbb.12021.
Nicotine binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and studies in animal models have shown that α4β2 receptors mediate many behavioral effects of nicotine. Human genetics studies have provided support that variation in the gene that codes for the α4 subunit influences nicotine dependence (ND), but the evidence for the involvement of the β2 subunit gene is less convincing. In the current study we examined the genetic association between variation in the genes that code for the α4 (CHRNA4) and β2 (CHRNB2) subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and a quantitative measure of lifetime DSM-IV ND symptom counts. We performed this analysis in two longitudinal family-based studies focused on adolescent antisocial drug abuse the Center on Antisocial Drug Dependence (CADD; N = 313 families) and Genetics of Antisocial Drug Dependence (GADD; N = 111 families). Family based association tests were used to examine associations between 14 SNPs in CHRNA4 and CHRNB2 SNPs and ND symptoms. Symptom counts were corrected for age, sex and clinical status prior to the association analysis. Results when the samples were combined provided modest evidence that SNPs in CHRNA4 are associated with ND. The minor allele at both rs1044394 (A; Z=1.988, p=0.047 unadjusted p-value) and rs1044396 (G; Z=2.398, p=0.017 unadjusted p-value) was associated with increased risk of ND symptoms. These data provide suggestive evidence that variation in the α4 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor may influence ND liability.
PMCID: PMC3727281  PMID: 23350800
Nicotine; Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors; DSM-IV Nicotine Dependence; Association Study

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