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1.  Dopamine transporter DAT and receptor DRD2 variants affect risk of lethal cocaine abuse: a gene–gene–environment interaction 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(1):e222-.
Epistatic gene–gene interactions could contribute to the heritability of complex multigenic disorders, but few examples have been reported. Here, we focus on the role of aberrant dopaminergic signaling, involving the dopamine transporter DAT, a cocaine target, and the dopamine D2 receptor, which physically interacts with DAT. Splicing polymorphism rs2283265 of DRD2, encoding D2 receptors, were shown to confer risk of cocaine overdose/death (odds ratio ∼3) in subjects and controls from the Miami Dade County Brain Bank.1 Risk of cocaine-related death attributable to the minor allele of rs2283265 was significantly enhanced to OR=7.5 (P=0.0008) in homozygous carriers of the main 6-repeat allele of DAT rs3836790, a regulatory VNTR in intron8 lacking significant effect itself. In contrast, carriers of the minor 5-repeat DAT allele showed no significant risk (OR=1.1, P=0.84). DAT rs3836790 and DRD2 rs2283265 also interacted by modulating DAT protein activity in the ventral putamen of cocaine abusers. In high-linkage disequilibrium with the VNTR, DAT rs6347 in exon9 yielded similar results. Assessing the impact of DAT alone, a rare DAT haplotype formed by the minor alleles of rs3836790 and rs27072, a regulatory DAT variant in the 3′-UTR, occurred in nearly one-third of the cocaine abusers but was absent in African American controls, apparently conferring strong risk. These results demonstrate gene–gene–drug interaction affecting risk of fatal cocaine intoxication.
PMCID: PMC3566726  PMID: 23340505
cocaine-related death; DAT; DRD2; epistasis; gene–gene interaction; gene regulation; haplotype
2.  Functional variants of the dopamine receptor D2 gene modulate prefronto-striatal phenotypes in schizophrenia 
Brain  2008;132(2):417-425.
Dopamine D2 receptor signalling is strongly implicated in the aetiology of schizophrenia. We have recently characterized the function of three DRD2 SNPs: rs12364283 in the promoter affecting total D2 mRNA expression; rs2283265 and rs1076560, respectively in introns 5 and 6, shifting mRNA splicing to two functionally distinct isoforms, the short form of D2 (D2S) and the long form (D2L). These two isoforms differentially contribute to dopamine signalling in prefrontal cortex and in striatum. We performed a case–control study to determine association of these variants and of their main haplotypes with several schizophrenia-related phenotypes. We demonstrate that the minor allele in the intronic variants is associated with reduced expression of %D2S of total mRNA in post-mortem prefrontal cortex, and with impaired working memory behavioural performance, both in patients and controls. However, the fMRI results show opposite effects in patients compared with controls: enhanced engagement of prefronto-striatal pathways in controls and reduced activity in patients. Moreover, the promoter variant is also associated with working memory activity in prefrontal cortex and striatum of patients, and less robustly with negative symptoms scores. Main haplotypes formed by the three DRD2 variants showed significant associations with these phenotypes consistent with those of the individual SNPs. Our results indicate that the three functional DRD2 variants modulate schizophrenia phenotypes possibly by modifying D2S/D2L ratios in the context of different total D2 density.
PMCID: PMC2640212  PMID: 18829695
dopamine; D2 receptor; working memory; prefrontal cortex; striatum
3.  The dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) SNP rs1076560 is associated with opioid addiction 
Annals of human genetics  2013;78(1):33-39.
The risk for drug addiction is partially heritable. Genes of the dopamine system are likely candidates to harbor risk variants, as dopamine neurotransmission is involved in mediating the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. One functional SNP in DRD2, rs1076560, is involved in regulating splicing of the gene and alters the ratio of DRD2 isoforms located pre and post-synaptically. rs1076560 has been previously associated with cocaine abuse and we set out to confirm this association in a sample of European American (n=336) and African American (n=1034) cocaine addicts and European American (n=656) and African American (n=668) controls. We also analysed the role of rs1076560 in opioid dependence by genotyping European American (n=1041) and African American (n=284) opioid addicts. rs1076560 was found to be nominally associated with opioid dependence in European Americans (p=0.02, OR=1.27) and African Americans (p=0.03, OR=1.43). When both opioid addicted ancestral samples were combined, rs1076560 was significantly associated with increased risk for drug dependence (p=0.0038, OR=1.29). This association remained significant after correction for multiple testing. No association was found with cocaine dependence. These data demonstrate the importance of dopamine gene variants in the risk for opioid dependence and highlight a functional polymorphism which warrants further study.
PMCID: PMC4013426  PMID: 24359476
dopamine; genetics; drug addiction; rs1076560; DRD2
4.  Two-stage case-control association study of dopamine-related genes and migraine 
BMC Medical Genetics  2009;10:95.
We previously reported risk haplotypes for two genes related with serotonin and dopamine metabolism: MAOA in migraine without aura and DDC in migraine with aura. Herein we investigate the contribution to migraine susceptibility of eight additional genes involved in dopamine neurotransmission.
We performed a two-stage case-control association study of 50 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), selected according to genetic coverage parameters. The first analysis consisted of 263 patients and 274 controls and the replication study was composed by 259 cases and 287 controls. All cases were diagnosed according to ICHD-II criteria, were Spanish Caucasian, and were sex-matched with control subjects.
Single-marker analysis of the first population identified nominal associations of five genes with migraine. After applying a false discovery rate correction of 10%, the differences remained significant only for DRD2 (rs2283265) and TH (rs2070762). Multiple-marker analysis identified a five-marker T-C-G-C-G (rs12363125-rs2283265-rs2242592-rs1554929-rs2234689) risk haplotype in DRD2 and a two-marker A-C (rs6356-rs2070762) risk haplotype in TH that remained significant after correction by permutations. These results, however, were not replicated in the second independent cohort.
The present study does not support the involvement of the DRD1, DRD2, DRD3, DRD5, DBH, COMT, SLC6A3 and TH genes in the genetic predisposition to migraine in the Spanish population.
PMCID: PMC2758864  PMID: 19772578
5.  Functional variation of the dopamine D2 receptor gene is associated with emotional control as well as brain activity and connectivity during emotion processing in humans 
Personality traits related to emotion processing are, at least in part, heritable and genetically determined. Dopamine D2 receptor signaling is involved in modulation of emotional behavior and activity of associated brain regions such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. An intronic single nucleotide polymorphism within the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560, guanine>thymine - G>T) shifts splicing of the two protein isoforms (D2 short, D2S, mainly presynaptic, and D2 long, D2L) and has been associated with modulation of memory performance and brain activity. Here, our aim was to investigate the association of DRD2 rs1076560 genotype with personality traits of emotional stability and with brain physiology during processing of emotionally relevant stimuli. DRD2 genotype and Big Five Questionnaire scores were evaluated in 134 healthy subjects demonstrating that GG subjects have reduced ‘emotion control’ compared with GT subjects. fMRI in a sample of 24 individuals indicated greater amygdala activity during implicit processing and greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) response during explicit processing of facial emotional stimuli in GG subjects compared with GT. Other results also demonstrate an interaction between DRD2 genotype and facial emotional expression on functional connectivity of both amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal regions with overlapping medial prefrontal areas. Moreover, rs1076560 genotype is associated with differential relationships between amygdala/DLPFC functional connectivity and emotion control scores. These results suggest that genetically determined D2 signaling may explain part of personality traits related to emotion processing and individual variability in specific brain responses to emotionally relevant inputs.
PMCID: PMC2834475  PMID: 19940176
amygdala; DRD2; dopamine; emotion; fMRI; prefrontal cortex
6.  Genetic Contributions to Avoidance-Based Decisions: Striatal D2 receptor Polymorphisms 
Neuroscience  2009;164(1):131-140.
Individuals differ in their tendencies to seek positive decision outcomes or to avoid negative ones. At the neurobiological level, our model suggests that phasic changes in dopamine support learning to reinforce good decisions via striatal D1 receptors, and to avoid maladaptive choices via striatal D2 receptors. Accordingly, in a previous study individual differences in positive and negative learning were strongly modulated by two genetic polymorphisms factors related to striatal D1 and D2 function, respectively. Nevertheless, whereas the role for dopamine in positive learning is relatively well accepted, that in learning to avoid negative outcomes is more controversial. Here we further explore D2-receptor-related genetic contributions to probabilistic avoidance, in light of recent data showing that particular DRD2 polymorphisms are associated with functional modulation of receptor expression (Zhang et al 2007, PNAS). We find that a promoter polymorphism rs12364283 associated with transcription and D2 receptor density was strongly and selectively predictive of avoidance-based decisions. Two further polymorphisms (rs2283265 and rs1076560) associated with relatively reduced presynaptic relative to postsynaptic D2 receptor expression were predictive of relative impairments in negative compared to positive decisions. These previously undocumented effects of DRD2 polymorphisms were largely independent of those we reported previously for the C957T polymorphism (rs6277) associated with striatal D2 density. In contrast, effects of the commonly studied Taq1A polymorphism on reinforcement-based decisions were due to indirect association with C957T. Taken together these findings suggest multiple D2-dependent genetic mechanisms contributing to avoidance. We discuss these effects in the context of neurocomputational models of reinforcement leaning in the basal ganglia.
PMCID: PMC2760598  PMID: 19393722
genetics; basal ganglia; dopamine; reinforcement learning; computational model
7.  Association of Dopamine Gene Variants, Emotion Dysregulation and ADHD in Autism Spectrum Disorder 
The aim of the present study was to evaluate the association of dopaminergic gene variants with emotion dysregulation (EMD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Three dopamine transporter gene (SLC6A3/DAT1) polymorphisms (intron8 5/6 VNTR, 3’-UTR 9/10 VNTR, rs27072 in the 3’-UTR) and one dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) variant (rs2283265) were selected for genotyping based on à priori evidence of regulatory activity or, in the case of DAT1 9/10 VNTR, commonly reported associations with ADHD. A sample of 110 children with ASD was assessed with a rigorously validated DSM-IV-referenced rating scale. Global EMD severity (parents’ ratings) was associated with DAT1 intron8 (ηp2=0.063) and rs2283265 (ηp2=0.044). Findings for DAT1 intron8 were also significant for two EMD subscales, generalized anxiety (ηp2=0.065) and depression (ηp2=0.059), and for DRD2 rs2283265, depression (ηp2=0.053). DRD2 rs2283265 was associated with teachers’ global ratings of ADHD (ηp2=0.052). DAT1 intron8 was associated with parent-rated hyperactivity (ηp2=0.045) and both DAT1 9/10 VNTR (ηp2=0.105) and DRD2 rs2283265 (ηp2=0.069) were associated with teacher-rated inattention. These findings suggest that dopaminergic gene polymorphisms may modulate EMD and ADHD symptoms in children with ASD but require replication with larger independent samples.
PMCID: PMC4084560  PMID: 24780147
autism; autism spectrum disorder; depression; emotion dysregulation; ADHD; DAT1; DRD2
8.  Family-based association testing strongly implicates DRD2 as a risk gene for schizophrenia in Han Chinese from Taiwan 
Molecular psychiatry  2008;14(9):885-893.
The gene that codes for dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2 on chromosome 11q23) has long been a prime functional and positional candidate risk gene for schizophrenia. Collectively, prior case–control studies found a reliable effect of the Ser311Cys DRD2 polymorphism (rs1801028) on risk for schizophrenia, but few other polymorphisms in the gene had ever been evaluated and no adequately powered family-based association study has been performed to date. Our objective was to test 21 haplotype-tagging and all three known nonsynonymous single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in DRD2 for association with schizophrenia in a family-based study of 2408 Han Chinese, including 1214 affected individuals from 616 families. We did not find a significant effect of rs1801028, but we did find significant evidence for association of schizophrenia with two multi-marker haplotypes spanning blocks of strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) and nine individual SNPs (Ps < 0.05). Importantly, two SNPs (rs1079727 and rs2283265) and both multi-marker haplotypes spanning entire LD blocks (including one that contained rs1801028) remained significant after correcting for multiple testing. These results further add to the body of data implicating DRD2 as a schizophrenia risk gene; however, a causal variant(s) in DRD2 remains to be elucidated by further fine mapping of the gene, with particular attention given to the area surrounding the third through fifth exons.
PMCID: PMC2755547  PMID: 18332877
allele; dopamine; haplotype; linkage disequilibrium; PBAT
9.  Genetically Determined Measures of Striatal D2 Signaling Predict Prefrontal Activity during Working Memory Performance 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9348.
Variation of the gene coding for D2 receptors (DRD2) has been associated with risk for schizophrenia and with working memory deficits. A functional intronic SNP (rs1076560) predicts relative expression of the two D2 receptors isoforms, D2S (mainly pre-synaptic) and D2L (mainly post-synaptic). However, the effect of functional genetic variation of DRD2 on striatal dopamine D2 signaling and on its correlation with prefrontal activity during working memory in humans is not known.
Thirty-seven healthy subjects were genotyped for rs1076560 (G>T) and underwent SPECT with [123I]IBZM (which binds primarily to post-synaptic D2 receptors) and with [123I]FP-CIT (which binds to pre-synaptic dopamine transporters, whose activity and density is also regulated by pre-synaptic D2 receptors), as well as BOLD fMRI during N-Back working memory.
Subjects carrying the T allele (previously associated with reduced D2S expression) had striatal reductions of [123I]IBZM and of [123I]FP-CIT binding. DRD2 genotype also differentially predicted the correlation between striatal dopamine D2 signaling (as identified with factor analysis of the two radiotracers) and activity of the prefrontal cortex during working memory as measured with BOLD fMRI, which was positive in GG subjects and negative in GT.
Our results demonstrate that this functional SNP within DRD2 predicts striatal binding of the two radiotracers to dopamine transporters and D2 receptors as well as the correlation between striatal D2 signaling with prefrontal cortex activity during performance of a working memory task. These data are consistent with the possibility that the balance of excitatory/inhibitory modulation of striatal neurons may also affect striatal outputs in relationship with prefrontal activity during working memory performance within the cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical pathway.
PMCID: PMC2825256  PMID: 20179754
10.  Prefronto-striatal physiology is associated with schizotypy and is modulated by a functional variant of DRD2 
“Schizotypy” is a latent organization of personality related to the genetic risk for schizophrenia. Some evidence suggests that schizophrenia and schizotypy share some biological features, including a link to dopaminergic D2 receptor signaling. A polymorphism in the D2 gene (DRD2 rs1076560, guanine > thymine (G > T)) has been associated with the D2 short/long isoform expression ratio, as well as striatal dopamine signaling and prefrontal cortical activity during different cognitive operations, which are measures that are altered in patients with schizophrenia. Our aim is to determine the association of schizotypy scores with the DRD2 rs1076560 genotype in healthy individuals and their interaction with prefrontal activity during attention and D2 striatal signaling. A total of 83 healthy subjects were genotyped for DRD2 rs1076560 and completed the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ). Twenty-six participants underwent SPECT with [123I]IBZM D2 receptor radiotracer, while 68 performed an attentional control task during fMRI. We found that rs1076560 GT subjects had greater SPQ scores than GG individuals. Moreover, the interaction between schizotypy and the GT genotype predicted prefrontal activity and related attentional behavior, as well as striatal binding of IBZM. No interaction was found in GG individuals. These results suggest that rs1076560 GT healthy individuals are prone to higher levels of schizotypy, and that the interaction between rs1076560 and schizotypy scores modulates phenotypes related to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, such as prefrontal activity and striatal dopamine signaling. These results provide systems-level qualitative evidence for mapping the construct of schizotypy in healthy individuals onto the schizophrenia continuum.
PMCID: PMC4089730  PMID: 25071490
schizotypy; dopamine; DRD2; fMRI; SPECT
11.  DRD2 Genotype-Based Variation of Default Mode Network Activity and of Its Relationship With Striatal DAT Binding 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2011;39(1):206-216.
The default mode network (DMN) comprises a set of brain regions with “increased” activity during rest relative to cognitive processing. Activity in the DMN is associated with functional connections with the striatum and dopamine (DA) levels in this brain region. A functional single-nucleotide polymorphism within the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560 G > T) shifts splicing of the 2 D2 isoforms, D2 short and D2 long, and has been associated with striatal DA signaling as well as with cognitive processing. However, the effects of this polymorphism on DMN have not been explored. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of rs1076560 on DMN and striatal connectivity and on their relationship with striatal DA signaling. Twenty-eight subjects genotyped for rs1076560 underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a working memory task and 123 55 I-Fluoropropyl-2-beta-carbomethoxy-3-beta(4-iodophenyl) nortropan Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography ([123I]-FP-CIT SPECT) imaging (a measure of dopamine transporter [DAT] binding). Spatial group-independent component (IC) analysis was used to identify DMN and striatal ICs. Within the anterior DMN IC, GG subjects had relatively greater connectivity in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which was directly correlated with striatal DAT binding. Within the posterior DMN IC, GG subjects had reduced connectivity in posterior cingulate relative to T carriers. Additionally, rs1076560 genotype predicted connectivity differences within a striatal network, and these changes were correlated with connectivity in MPFC and posterior cingulate within the DMN. These results suggest that genetically determined D2 receptor signaling is associated with DMN connectivity and that these changes are correlated with striatal function and presynaptic DA signaling.
PMCID: PMC3523900  PMID: 21976709
DRD2; dopamine; default mode network; functional magnetic resonance imaging; single-photon emission computerized tomography
12.  Association of COMT and COMT-DRD2 interaction with creative potential 
Several lines of evidence suggest that genes involved in dopamine (DA) transmission may contribute to creativity. Among these genes, the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene (COMT) and the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) are the most promising candidates. Our previous study has revealed evidence for the involvement of DRD2 in creative potential. The present study extended our previous study by systematically exploring the association of COMT with creative potential as well as the interaction between COMT and DRD2. Twelve single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) covering COMT were genotyped in 543 healthy Chinese college students whose creative potentials were assessed by divergent thinking tests. Single SNP analysis showed that rs174697 was nominally associated with verbal originality, two SNPs (rs737865 and rs5993883) were nominally associated with figural fluency, and two SNPs (rs737865 and rs4680) were nominally associated with figural originality. Haplotype analysis showed that, the TCT and CCT haplotype (rs737865-rs174675-rs5993882) were nominally associated with figural originality, and the TATGCAG and CGCGGGA haplotype (rs4646312-rs6269-rs4633-rs6267-rs4818-rs4680-rs769224) were nominally associated with figural originality and verbal flexibility, respectively. However, none of these nominal findings survived correction for multiple testing. Gene–gene interaction analysis identified one significant four-way interaction of rs174675 (COMT), rs174697 (COMT), rs1076560 (DRD2), and rs4436578 (DRD2) on verbal fluency, one significant four-way interaction of rs174675 (COMT), rs4818 (COMT), rs1076560 (DRD2), and rs4648317 (DRD2) on verbal flexibility, and one significant three-way interaction of rs5993883 (COMT), rs4648319 (DRD2), and rs4648317 (DRD2) on figural flexibility. In conclusion, the present study provides nominal evidence for the involvement of COMT in creative potential and suggests that DA related genes may act in coordination to contribute to creativity.
PMCID: PMC3995040  PMID: 24782743
creativity; creative potential; divergent thinking; dopamine; COMT; DRD2; gene–gene interaction
13.  The influence of dopaminergic gene variants on decision making in the ultimatum game 
One of the most prominent paradigms in neuroeconomics is the ultimatum game (UG) that provides a framework for the study of pro-social behavior in two players interacting anonymously with each other: Player 1 has to split an endowment with player 2. Player 2 can either accept or reject the offer from player 1. If player 2 accepts the offer then the money is split as proposed by player 1. In case of rejection both players get nothing. Until now only one twin study investigated the heritability of the behavior in the UG. Results indicated a strong heritability for the decision behavior of player 2 whereas no genetic influence on player 1 behavior could be detected. Further studies are mandatory to validate these heritability estimates. However, a first candidate polymorphism, the DRD4 exon III, constituting the biological basis of the heritability in the responder behavior has already been identified in a Chinese sample (Zhong et al., 2010). Until now genetic studies in Caucasians on the UG are lacking. The present study wants to fill this gap by investigating the UG in a healthy German sample. Moreover, we intend to find candidate genes that are associated with the first-mover-behavior. In a sample of N = 130 healthy participants an online version of the UG was conducted and polymorphisms of the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) and the DRD4 exon III VNTR were genotyped. We could confirm the DRD4 exon III effect on the responder behavior and the absence of an effect on the proposer behavior reported before. In line with Zhong et al. (2010) carriers of the 4/4 genotype showed a significant higher minimal acceptable offer (p = 0.023) than subjects with any other genotype. Furthermore, a DRD2-haplotype-block containing the single nucleotide polymorphisms rs1800497 and rs2283265 was significantly associated with the amount player1 offered (p = 0.005) but not with the decision of player 2. Results support the importance of the dopaminergic system for pro-social behavior.
PMCID: PMC3671187  PMID: 23759976
decision making; ultimatum game; dopamine; DRD2; DRD4; gene; pro-social-behavior; neuroeconomics
14.  Multivariate Analysis of Dopaminergic Gene Variants as Risk Factors of Heroin Dependence 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66592.
Heroin dependence is a debilitating psychiatric disorder with complex inheritance. Since the dopaminergic system has a key role in rewarding mechanism of the brain, which is directly or indirectly targeted by most drugs of abuse, we focus on the effects and interactions among dopaminergic gene variants.
To study the potential association between allelic variants of dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2), ANKK1 (ankyrin repeat and kinase domain containing 1), dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4), catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) and dopamine transporter (SLC6A3) genes and heroin dependence in Hungarian patients.
303 heroin dependent subjects and 555 healthy controls were genotyped for 7 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs4680 of the COMT gene; rs1079597 and rs1800498 of the DRD2 gene; rs1800497 of the ANKK1 gene; rs1800955, rs936462 and rs747302 of the DRD4 gene. Four variable number of tandem repeats (VNTRs) were also genotyped: 120 bp duplication and 48 bp VNTR in exon 3 of DRD4 and 40 bp VNTR and intron 8 VNTR of SLC6A3. We also perform a multivariate analysis of associations using Bayesian networks in Bayesian multilevel analysis (BN-BMLA).
Findings and conclusions
In single marker analysis the TaqIA (rs1800497) and TaqIB (rs1079597) variants were associated with heroin dependence. Moreover, –521 C/T SNP (rs1800955) of the DRD4 gene showed nominal association with a possible protective effect of the C allele. After applying the Bonferroni correction TaqIB was still significant suggesting that the minor (A) allele of the TaqIB SNP is a risk component in the genetic background of heroin dependence. The findings of the additional multiple marker analysis are consistent with the results of the single marker analysis, but this method was able to reveal an indirect effect of a promoter polymorphism (rs936462) of the DRD4 gene and this effect is mediated through the –521 C/T (rs1800955) polymorphism in the promoter.
PMCID: PMC3696122  PMID: 23840506
15.  Genetically determined interaction between the dopamine transporter and the D2 receptor on prefronto-striatal activity and volume in humans 
Dopamine modulation of neuronal activity during memory tasks identifies a non-linear inverted-U shaped function. Both the dopamine transporter (DAT) and dopamine D2 receptors (encoded by DRD2) critically regulate dopamine signaling in the striatum and in prefrontal cortex during memory. Moreover, in vitro studies have demonstrated that DAT and D2 proteins reciprocally regulate each other presynaptically. Therefore, we have evaluated the genetic interaction between a DRD2 polymorphism (rs1076560) causing reduced presynaptic D2 receptor expression and the DAT 3’-VNTR variant (affecting DAT expression) in a large sample of healthy subjects undergoing BOLD - fMRI during memory tasks and structural MRI. Results indicated a significant DRD2/DAT interaction in prefrontal cortex and striatum BOLD activity during both working memory and encoding of recognition memory. The differential effect on BOLD activity of the DAT variant was mostly manifest in the context of the DRD2 allele associated with lower presynaptic expression. Similar results were also evident for gray matter volume in caudate. These interactions describe a non-linear relationship between compound genotypes and brain activity or gray matter volume. Complementary data from striatal protein extracts from wild-type and D2 knock-out animals (D2R−/−) indicate that DAT and D2 proteins interact in vivo. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the interaction between genetic variants in DRD2 and DAT critically modulates the non-linear relationship between dopamine and neuronal activity during memory processing.
PMCID: PMC2686116  PMID: 19176830
working memory; Recognition Memory; FMRI; Dopamine; Transport; D2; Receptor
16.  A functional haplotype implicated in vulnerability to develop cocaine dependence is associated with reduced PDYN expression in human brain 
Dynorphin peptides and the kappa opioid receptor play important roles in the rewarding properties of cocaine, heroin and alcohol. We tested polymorphisms of the prodynorphin gene (PDYN) for association with cocaine dependence and cocaine/alcohol codependence. We genotyped six SNPs, located in the promoter region, exon 4 coding and 3′ untranslated region (UTR), in 106 Caucasians and 204 African Americans who were cocaine dependent, cocaine/alcohol codependent or controls. In Caucasians, we found point-wise significant associations of 3′UTR SNPs (rs910080, rs910079, and rs2235749) with cocaine dependence and cocaine/alcohol codependence. These SNPs are in high linkage disequilibrium, comprising a haplotype block. The haplotype CCT was significantly experiment-wise associated with cocaine dependence and with combined cocaine dependence and cocaine/alcohol codependence (FDR, q=0.04 and 0.03, respectively). We investigated allele-specific gene expression of PDYN, using SNP rs910079 as a reporter, in postmortem human brains from eight heterozygous subjects, using SNaPshot assay. There was significantly lower expression for C allele (rs910079), with ratios ranging from 0.48 to 0.78, indicating lower expression of the CCT haplotype of PDYN in both the caudate and nucleus accumbens. Analysis of total PDYN expression in 43 postmortem brains also showed significantly lower levels of preprodynorphin mRNA in subjects having the risk CCT haplotype. This study provides evidence that a 3′UTR PDYN haplotype, implicated in vulnerability to develop cocaine addiction and/or cocaine/alcohol codependence, is related to lower mRNA expression of the PDYN gene in human dorsal and ventral striatum.
PMCID: PMC2778041  PMID: 18923396
Addiction & Substance Abuse; Molecular & Cellular Neurobiology; Neurogenetics; Neurochemistry; Cocaine
17.  DRD2/CHRNA5 Interaction on Prefrontal Biology and Physiology during Working Memory 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95997.
Prefrontal behavior and activity in humans are heritable. Studies in animals demonstrate an interaction between dopamine D2 receptors and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on prefrontal behavior but evidence in humans is weak. Therefore, we hypothesize that genetic variation regulating dopamine D2 and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor signaling impact prefrontal cortex activity and related cognition. To test this hypothesis in humans, we explored the interaction between functional genetic variants in the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560) and in the nicotinic receptor α5 gene (CHRNA5, rs16969968) on both dorsolateral prefrontal cortex mediated behavior and physiology during working memory and on prefrontal gray matter volume.
A large sample of healthy subjects was compared for genotypic differences for DRD2 rs1076560 (G>T) and CHNRA5 rs16969968 (G>A) on prefrontal phenotypes, including cognitive performance at the N-Back task, prefrontal physiology with BOLD fMRI during performance of the 2-Back working memory task, and prefrontal morphometry with structural MRI.
We found that DRD2 rs1076560 and CHNRA5 rs16969968 interact to modulate cognitive function, prefrontal physiology during working memory, and prefrontal gray matter volume. More specifically, CHRNA5-AA/DRD2-GT subjects had greater behavioral performance, more efficient prefrontal cortex activity at 2Back working memory task, and greater prefrontal gray matter volume than the other genotype groups.
The present data extend previous studies in animals and enhance our understanding of dopamine and acetylcholine signaling in the human prefrontal cortex, demonstrating interactions elicited by working memory that are modulated by genetic variants in DRD2 and CHRNA5.
PMCID: PMC4018353  PMID: 24819610
18.  A Mechanism for the Inhibition of Neural Progenitor Cell Proliferation by Cocaine 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e117.
Prenatal exposure of the developing brain to cocaine causes morphological and behavioral abnormalities. Recent studies indicate that cocaine-induced proliferation inhibition and/or apoptosis in neural progenitor cells may play a pivotal role in causing these abnormalities. To understand the molecular mechanism through which cocaine inhibits cell proliferation in neural progenitors, we sought to identify the molecules that are responsible for mediating the effect of cocaine on cell cycle regulation.
Methods and Findings
Microarray analysis followed by quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR was used to screen cocaine-responsive and cell cycle-related genes in a neural progenitor cell line where cocaine exposure caused a robust anti-proliferative effect by interfering with the G1-to-S transition. Cyclin A2, among genes related to the G1-to-S cell cycle transition, was most strongly down-regulated by cocaine. Down-regulation of cyclin A was also found in cocaine-treated human primary neural and A2B5+ progenitor cells, as well as in rat fetal brains exposed to cocaine in utero. Reversing cyclin A down-regulation by gene transfer counteracted the proliferation inhibition caused by cocaine. Further, we found that cocaine-induced accumulation of reactive oxygen species, which involves N-oxidation of cocaine via cytochrome P450, promotes cyclin A down-regulation by causing an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response, as indicated by increased phosphorylation of eIF2α and expression of ATF4. In the developing rat brain, the P450 inhibitor cimetidine counteracted cocaine-induced inhibition of neural progenitor cell proliferation as well as down-regulation of cyclin A.
Our results demonstrate that down-regulation of cyclin A underlies cocaine-induced proliferation inhibition in neural progenitors. The down-regulation of cyclin A is initiated by N-oxidative metabolism of cocaine and consequent ER stress. Inhibition of cocaine N-oxidative metabolism by P450 inhibitors may provide a preventive strategy for counteracting the adverse effects of cocaine on fetal brain development.
Investigating the mechanism of cocaine's effect on fetal brain development, Chun-Ting Lee and colleagues find that down-regulation of cyclin A by a cocaine metabolite inhibits neural proliferation.
Editors' Summary
Every year, cocaine abuse by mothers during pregnancy exposes thousands of unborn infants (fetuses) to this powerful and addictive stimulant. Maternal cocaine abuse during early pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage; its use during late pregnancy slows the baby's growth and can trigger premature labor. Babies exposed to cocaine shortly before birth are often irritable and have disturbed sleep patterns. They can also be very sensitive to sound and touch and consequently hard to comfort. These problems usually resolve spontaneously within the first few weeks of life but some permanent birth defects are also associated with frequent cocaine abuse during pregnancy. In particular, babies exposed to cocaine before birth sometimes have small heads—an abnormality that generally indicates a small brain—and, although they usually have normal intelligence, the development of their thinking skills and language is often delayed, and they can have behavioral problems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Exposure to cocaine before birth clearly interferes with some aspects of brain development. More specifically, it reduces the number and position of neurons (the cells that transmit information in the form of electrical impulses around the body) within the brain. All neurons develop from neural progenitor cells, and previous research suggests that cocaine exposure before birth inhibits the proliferation of these cells in the developing brain. It would be useful to understand exactly how cocaine affects neural progenitor cells, because it might then be possible to prevent the drug's adverse effects on brain development. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the molecular mechanism that underlies cocaine's effect on neural progenitor cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
When the researchers investigated the effects of cocaine on AF5 cells (rat neural progenitor cells that grow indefinitely in the laboratory), they found that concentrations of cocaine similar to those measured in fetal brains after maternal drug exposure inhibited the proliferation of AF5 cells by blocking the “G1-to-S transition.” This is a stage that cells have to pass through between each round of cell division (the production of two daughter cells from one parent cell). Next, the researchers showed that cocaine-treated AF5 cells made much less cyclin A2, a protein that controls the G1-to-S transition, than untreated cells. Cocaine also decreased cyclin A2 levels in neural progenitor cells freshly isolated from human fetal brains and in fetal rat brains exposed to the drug while in their mother's womb. Treatment of AF5 cells with a cyclin A2 expression vector (a piece of DNA that directs the production of cyclin A2) counteracted the down-regulation of cyclin A2 and restored AF5 proliferation in the presence of cocaine. Other experiments indicate that the reduction of cyclin A2 by cocaine in AF5 cells involves the accumulation of “reactive oxygen species,” by-products of the breakdown of cocaine by a protein that is a member of a family of proteins called cytochrome P450. Finally, treatment of pregnant rats with cimetidine (which inhibits the action of cytochrome P450) counteracted both the inhibition of neural progenitor cell proliferation and the cyclin A2 down-regulation that cocaine exposure induced in the brains of their unborn pups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the cocaine-induced inhibition of neural progenitor cell proliferation involves, at least in part, interfering with the production (that is, causing down-regulation) of cyclin A2. They also show that this down-regulation is induced by the breakdown of cocaine by cytochrome P450, and that in both a rat cell line and in fetal rats, the cytochrome P450 inhibitor cimetidine (a drug that is already used clinically for stomach problems) can block the adverse effects of cocaine on the proliferation of neural progenitor cells. These findings need to be confirmed in animals more closely related to people than rats, and the long-term effects of cimetidine need to be investigated, in particular its effects on cocaine toxicity. Nevertheless these results raise the possibility that giving cimetidine or other drugs with similar effects to pregnant women who are addicted to cocaine might prevent some of the harm that their drug habit does to their unborn children, although it is not clear whether there is a dosage of cimetidine that might be both safe and adequate for this purpose.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A PLoS Medicine Perspective article by Steven Hyman further discusses this study
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a fact sheet on cocaine (in English and Spanish)
The UK charity Release provides information and advice to the public and professionals about the law and drugs, including information about cocaine
MedlinePlus also provides a list of links to information about cocaine (in English and Spanish)
The March of Dimes Foundation, a US nonprofit organization for the improvement of child health, provides information about illicit drug use during pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists also provides a fact sheet on cocaine and pregnancy (in English, Spanish, and French)
PMCID: PMC2504032  PMID: 18593214
19.  Common polymorphisms in dopamine-related genes combine to produce a ‘schizophrenia-like' prefrontal hypoactivity 
Translational Psychiatry  2014;4(2):e356-.
Individual changes in dopamine-related genes influence prefrontal activity during cognitive-affective processes; however, the extent to which common genetic variations combine to influence prefrontal activity is unknown. We assessed catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val108/158Met (rs4680) and dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) G-T (rs2283265) single nucleotide polymorphisms and functional magnetic resonance imaging during an emotional response inhibition test in 43 healthy adults and 27 people with schizophrenia to determine the extent to which COMT Val108/158Met and DRD2 G-T polymorphisms combine to influence prefrontal response to cognitive-affective challenges. We found an increased number of cognitive-deficit risk alleles in these two dopamine-regulating genes predict reduced prefrontal activation during response inhibition in healthy adults, mimicking schizophrenia-like prefrontal hypoactivity. Our study provides evidence that functionally related genes can combine to produce a disease-like endophenotype.
PMCID: PMC3944629  PMID: 24495967
catechol-O-methyl-transferase COMT genotype; dopamine D2 receptor gene; emotional inhibition; hypofrontality; prefrontal cortex; schizophrenia
20.  HIV-related cognitive impairment shows bi-directional association with dopamine receptor DRD1 and DRD2 polymorphisms in substance dependent and independent populations 
Journal of neurovirology  2013;19(5):10.1007/s13365-013-0204-8.
It has been postulated that drugs of abuse act synergistically with HIV, leading to increased neurotoxicity and neurocognitive impairment. The CNS impacts of HIV and drug use converge on the mesocorticolimbic dopamine (DA) system, which contains two main receptor subtypes: dopamine receptor 1 and 2. (DRD1, DRD2). DRD1 and DRD2 have been linked to substance dependence; whether they predict HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) is unclear. Using an advanced-stage HIV+ population, we sought to determine if drug dependence impacts the contribution of DA receptor polymorphisms on neurocognition. We observed that both DRD1 and DRD2 polymorphisms were associated with opiate and cocaine dependence (P<0.05) in Caucasian subjects, but not African-American individuals. Using linear regression analysis, we examined the polymorphisms for associations with neuropsychological performance in global and cognitive domain T-scores (Motor, Processing Speed, Verbal Fluency, Learning, Memory, Executive Functioning, Working Memory) while controlling for opiate and cocaine dependency. In the Motor domain, we observed an association for two DRD2 polymorphisms (P<0.05) in Caucasian subjects. The effects differed for substance dependence groups as the direction of the correlations with DRD2 were opposite to what was seen in subjects without these dependencies. In African-American subjects, associations were observed in nearly every domain and again, the direction of the correlation differed between substance dependent and independent groups. We conclude that studies to examine genetic risk for HAND must carefully account for substance dependence patterns when assaying dopaminergic systems, as the neurobiological substrates of cognition in HIV populations may vary with tonic alterations secondary to chronic substance exposures.
PMCID: PMC3856629  PMID: 24078558
HAND; cocaine; opiate; SNP
21.  Association of dopaminergic pathway gene polymorphisms with chronic renal insufficiency among Asian Indians with type-2 diabetes 
BMC Genetics  2008;9:26.
Genetic markers conferring susceptibility to diabetes specific renal disease remains to be identified for early prediction and development of effective drugs and therapies. Inconsistent results obtained from analysis of genes from classical pathways generate need for examination of unconventional genetic markers having role in regulation of renal function. Experimental and clinical evidences suggest that dopamine is an important natriuretic hormone. Therefore, various genes involved in regulation of dopamine bioavailability could play a role in diabetic chronic renal insufficiency (CRI). We investigated the contribution of 12 polymorphisms from five Dopaminergic pathway genes to CRI among type-2 diabetic Asian Indian subjects.
Genetic association of 12 polymorphisms (SNPs) from five genes namely-dopamine receptor-1 (DRD1), DRD2, DRD3, DRD4, andcatechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) with diabetic CRI was investigated using a case-control approach. Logistic regression analysis was carried out to correlate various clinical parameters with genotypes, and to study pair wise interactions between SNPs of different genes.
SNPs -141 ins/del C and G>A (1 kb upstream from exon 2) in DRD2 gene showed significant allelic and genotypic association. Allele -141 insC and genotype -141 insC/insC of -141 ins/del C polymorphism, and allele A of G>A SNP were found to be predisposing to CRI. Our result of allelic and genotypic association of -141 insC/delC SNP was also reflected in the haplotypic association. Heterozygous genotype of polymorphism 900 ins/del C in COMT gene was predisposing towards CRI.
Some polymorphisms in DRD2 and COMT genes are significantly associated with susceptibility to CRI in the Asian Indian population which, if confirmed would be consistent with a suggested role of dopamine metabolism in disease occurrence.
PMCID: PMC2287188  PMID: 18366720
22.  Custom genotyping for substance addiction susceptibility genes in Jordanians of Arab descent 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:497.
Both environmental and genetic factors contribute to individual susceptibility to initiation of substance use and vulnerability to addiction. Determining genetic risk factors can make an important contribution to understanding the processes leading to addiction. In order to identify gene(s) and mechanisms associated with substance addiction, a custom platform array search for a genetic association in a case/control of homogenous Jordanian Arab population was undertaken. Patients meeting the DSM-VI criteria for substance dependence (n = 220) and entering eight week treatment program at two Jordanian Drug Rehabilitation Centres were genotyped. In addition, 240 healthy controls were also genotyped. The sequenom MassARRAY system (iPLEX GOLD) was used to genotype 49 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within 8 genes (DRD1, DRD2, DRD3, DRD4, DRD5, BDNF, SLC6A3 and COMT).
This study revealed six new associations involving SNPs within DRD2 gene on chromosome 11. These six SNPs within the DRD2 were found to be most strongly associated with substance addiction in the Jordanian Arabic sample. The strongest statistical evidence for these new association signals were from rs1799732 in the C/−C promoter and rs1125394 in A/G intron 1 regions of DRD2, with the overall estimate of effects returning an odds ratio of 3.37 (χ2 (2, N = 460) = 21, p-value = 0.000026) and 1.78 (χ2 (2, N = 460) = 8, p-value = 0.001), respectively. It has been suggested that DRD2, dopamine receptor D2, plays an important role in dopamine secretion and the signal pathways of dopaminergic reward and drug addiction.
This study is the first to show a genetic link to substance addiction in a Jordanian population of Arab descent. These findings may contribute to our understanding of drug addiction mechanisms in Middle Eastern populations and how to manage or dictate therapy for individuals. Comparative analysis with different ethnic groups could assist further improving our understanding of these mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3477049  PMID: 22963930
SNP; DRD2; Opiates; Cocaine; Association; Substance addiction; Jordan; Arab
23.  No Evidence for Strong Recent Positive Selection Favoring the 7 Repeat Allele of VNTR in the DRD4 Gene 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e24410.
The human dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene contains a 48-bp variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) in exon 3, encoding the third intracellular loop of this dopamine receptor. The DRD4 7R allele, which seems to have a single origin, is commonly observed in various human populations and the nucleotide diversity of the DRD4 7R haplotype at the DRD4 locus is reduced compared to the most common DRD4 4R haplotype. Based on these observations, previous studies have hypothesized that positive selection has acted on the DRD4 7R allele. However, the degrees of linkage disequilibrium (LD) of the DRD4 7R allele with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) outside the DRD4 locus have not been evaluated. In this study, to re-examine the possibility of recent positive selection favoring the DRD4 7R allele, we genotyped HapMap subjects for DRD4 VNTR, and conducted several neutrality tests including long range haplotype test and iHS test based on the extended haplotype homozygosity. Our results indicated that LD of the DRD4 7R allele was not extended compared to SNP alleles with the similar frequency. Thus, we conclude that the DRD4 7R allele has not been subjected to strong recent positive selection.
PMCID: PMC3164202  PMID: 21909391
24.  Association Between 5HT1b Receptor Gene and Methamphetamine Dependence 
Current Neuropharmacology  2011;9(1):163-168.
Several lines of evidence implicate serotonergic dysfunction in diverse psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression, and drug abuse. Mice with a knock-out of the 5HT1b receptor gene (HTR1B) displayed increased locomotor response to cocaine and elevated motivation to self-administer cocaine and alcohol. Previous genetic studies showed significant associations of HTR1B with alcohol dependence and substance abuse, but were followed by inconsistent results. We examined a case-control genetic association study of HTR1B with methamphetamine-dependence patients in a Japanese population. The subjects were 231 patients with methamphetamine dependence, 214 of whom had a co-morbidity of methamphetamine psychosis, and 248 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. The three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), rs130058 (A-165T), rs1228814 (A-700C) and rs1228814 (A+1180G) of HTR1B were genotyped. There was no significant difference in allelic and genotypic distributions of the SNPs between methamphetamine dependence and the control. Genetic associations of HTR1B were tested with several clinical phenotypes of methamphetamine dependence and/or psychosis, such as age at first abuse, duration of latency from the first abuse to onset of psychosis, prognosis of psychosis after therapy, and complication of spontaneous relapse of psychotic state. There was, however, no asscocation between any SNP and the clinical phenotypes. Haplotype analyses showed the three SNPs examined were within linkage disequilibrium, which implied that the three SNPs covered the whole HTR1B, and distribution of estimated haplotype frequency was not different between the groups. The present findings may indicate that HTR1B does not play a major role in individual susceptibility to methamphetamine dependence or development of methamphetamine-induced psychosis.
PMCID: PMC3137174  PMID: 21886584
Methamphetamine dependence; association study; HTR1B; haplotype.
25.  Associations between DRDs and schizophrenia in a Korean population: multi-stage association analyses 
The dysregulation of the dopaminergic system has been implicated in the pathophysiology of major psychosis, including schizophrenia, with dopamine receptor genes (DRDs) presently targeted as the most promising candidate genes. We investigated DRD1-5 for association with schizophrenia using a multi-stage approach in a Korean sample. One hundred forty-two SNPs in DRD1-5 were selected from the dbSNP, and the associations of each SNP were then screened and typed by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry using pooled DNA samples from 150 patients with major psychosis and 150 controls. Each of the suggested SNPs was then genotyped and tested for an association within the individual samples comprising each pool. Finally, the positively associated SNPs were genotyped in an extended sample of 270 patients with schizophrenia and 350 controls. Among the 142 SNPs, 88 (62%) SNPs in our Korean population were polymorphic. At the pooling stage, 10 SNPs (DRD1: 2, DRD2: 3, and DRD4: 5) were identified (P < 0.05). SNPs rs1799914 of DRD1 (P = 0.046) and rs752306 of DRD4 (P = 0.017) had significantly different allele frequencies in the individually genotyped samples comprising the pool. In the final stage, with the extended sample, the suggestive association of DRD4 with rs752306 was lost, but the association of DRD1 with rs1799914 gained greater significance (P = 0.017). In these large-scale multi-stage analyses, we were able to find a possible association between DRD1 and schizophrenia. These findings suggested the potential contribution of a multi-step strategy for finding genes related to schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC3041937  PMID: 21178390
Asian continental ancestry group; gene pool; genetic association studies; receptors, dopamine; schizophrenia

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