We studied the effects of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the metabotropic glutamate receptor 3 (GRM3) gene on brain N-acetylaspartate (NAA) concentrations and executive function (EF) skills in non-smoking, active alcoholics, and evaluated associations between these variables.
SNPs (rs6465084, rs1468412, and rs2299225) in GRM3 were genotyped in 49 male, non-smoking, alcohol-dependent patients and 45 healthy control subjects using ligase detection reactions. NAA/creatine (Cr) ratios in left prefrontal gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM), left parietal GM, left parietal WM, and cerebellar vermis regions were measured by Proton 1 H Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). EF was measured by the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST).
Compared to controls, alcoholics had lower NAA/Cr ratios in prefrontal GM and WM regions and performed more poorly on all EF tests (P < 0.001). Alcoholics with the A/A genotype for SNP rs6465084 had lower NAA/Cr ratios in prefrontal GM and WM regions and had poorer EF skills than alcoholics who were G-carriers for this SNP (P < 0.01). Non-alcoholics with the A/A genotype for rs6465084 also had lower NAA/Cr levels in prefrontal GM and made more random errors in the WCST than G-carriers (P < 0.01). The A/A genotype group for SNP rs6465084 was significantly different from the G carriers for the variables of NAA/Cr ratios and WCST scores in both alcoholics and controls (P < 0.05). Alcoholics who were T-carriers for rs1468412 had lower NAA/Cr ratios in prefrontal GM and showed poorer EF skills (P < 0.05). No effects of rs2299225 genotype on NAA/Cr or executive skills were observed. NAA/Cr in left prefrontal regions correlated with certain parameters of EF testing in both alcoholics and controls (P < 0.05), but the significance of this correlation among alcoholics disappeared after adjustment for the effects of genotype.
Our results provide evidence that glutamate system dysfunction may play a role in the prefrontal functional abnormalities seen in alcohol dependence. It is possible that certain GRM3 SNP genotypes (the A/A genotype of rs6465084 and the T allele of rs1468412) may further lower NAA/Cr levels and EF skills in addition to the effect of alcohol.