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1.  Rare, low frequency, and common coding variants in CHRNA5 and their contribution to nicotine dependence in European and African Americans 
Molecular psychiatry  2015;21(5):601-607.
The common nonsynonymous variant rs16969968 in the α5 nicotinic receptor subunit gene (CHRNA5) is the strongest genetic risk factor for nicotine dependence in European Americans and contributes to risk in African Americans. To comprehensively examine whether other CHRNA5 coding variation influences nicotine dependence risk, we performed targeted sequencing on 1582 nicotine dependent cases (Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence score≥4) and 1238 non-dependent controls, with independent replication of common and low frequency variants using 12 studies with exome chip data. Nicotine dependence was examined using logistic regression with individual common variants (MAF≥0.05), aggregate low frequency variants (0.05>MAF≥0.005), and aggregate rare variants (MAF<0.005). Meta-analysis of primary results was performed with replication studies containing 12 174 heavy and 11 290 light smokers. Next-generation sequencing with 180X coverage identified 24 nonsynonymous variants and 2 frameshift deletions in CHRNA5, including 9 novel variants in the 2820 subjects. Meta-analysis confirmed the risk effect of the only common variant (rs16969968, European ancestry: OR=1.3, p=3.5×10−11; African ancestry: OR=1.3, p=0.01) and demonstrated that 3 low frequency variants contributed an independent risk (aggregate term, European ancestry: OR=1.3, p=0.005; African ancestry: OR=1.4, p=0.0006). The remaining 22 rare coding variants were associated with increased risk of nicotine dependence in the European American primary sample (OR=12.9, p=0.01) and in the same risk direction in African Americans (OR=1.5, p=0.37). Our results indicate that common, low frequency and rare CHRNA5 coding variants are independently associated with nicotine dependence risk. These newly identified variants likely influence risk for smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC4740321  PMID: 26239294
2.  A multiancestry study identifies novel genetic associations with CHRNA5 methylation in human brain and risk of nicotine dependence 
Human Molecular Genetics  2015;24(20):5940-5954.
Nicotine dependence is influenced by chromosome 15q25.1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including the missense SNP rs16969968 that alters function of the α5 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (CHRNA5) and noncoding SNPs that regulate CHRNA5 mRNA expression. We tested for cis-methylation quantitative trait loci (cis-meQTLs) using SNP genotypes and DNA methylation levels measured across the IREB2-HYKK-PSMA4-CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 genes on chromosome 15q25.1 in the BrainCloud and Brain QTL cohorts [total N = 175 European-Americans and 65 African-Americans (AAs)]. We identified eight SNPs that were significantly associated with CHRNA5 methylation in prefrontal cortex: P ranging from 6.0 × 10−10 to 5.6 × 10−5. These SNP–methylation associations were also significant in frontal cortex, temporal cortex and pons: P ranging from 4.8 × 10−12 to 3.4 × 10−3. Of the eight cis-meQTL SNPs, only the intronic CHRNB4 SNP rs11636753 was associated with CHRNA5 methylation independently of the known SNP effects in prefrontal cortex, and it was the most significantly associated SNP with nicotine dependence across five independent cohorts (total N = 7858 European ancestry and 3238 AA participants): P = 6.7 × 10−4, odds ratio (OR) [95% confidence interval (CI)] = 1.11 (1.05–1.18). The rs11636753 major allele (G) was associated with lower CHRNA5 DNA methylation, lower CHRNA5 mRNA expression and increased nicotine dependence risk. Haplotype analyses showed that rs11636753-G and the functional rs16969968-A alleles together increased risk of nicotine dependence more than each variant alone: P = 3.1 × 10−12, OR (95% CI) = 1.32 (1.22–1.43). Our findings identify a novel regulatory SNP association with nicotine dependence and connect, for the first time, previously observed differences in CHRNA5 mRNA expression and nicotine dependence risk to underlying DNA methylation differences.
PMCID: PMC4581607  PMID: 26220977
3.  Association of substance dependence phenotypes in the COGA sample 
Addiction biology  2014;20(3):617-627.
Alcohol and drug use disorders are individually heritable (50%). Twin studies indicate that alcohol and substance use disorders share common genetic influences, and therefore may represent a more heritable form of addiction and thus be more powerful for genetic studies. This study utilized data from 2,322 subjects from 118 European-American families in the COGA sample to conduct genomewide association analysis of a binary and a continuous index of general substance dependence liability. The binary phenotype (ANYDEP) was based on meeting lifetime criteria for any DSM-IV dependence on alcohol, cannabis, cocaine or opioids. The quantitative trait (QUANTDEP) was constructed from factor analysis based on endorsement across the 7 DSM-IV criteria for each of the 4 substances. Heritability was estimated to be 54% for ANYDEP and 86% for QUANTDEP. One SNP, rs2952621 in the uncharacterized gene LOC151121 on chromosome 2, was associated with ANYDEP (p=1.8×10−8), with support from surrounding imputed SNPs and replication in an independent sample (SAGE; p=0.02). One SNP, rs2567261 in ARHGAP28 (Rho GTPase activating protein 28), was associated with QUANTDEP (p=3.8×10−8), and supported by imputed SNPs in the region, but did not replicate in an independent sample (SAGE; p=0.29). The results of this study provide evidence that there are common variants that contribute to the risk for a general liability to substance dependence.
PMCID: PMC4233207  PMID: 24832863
alcohol dependence; cannabis dependence; cocaine dependence; common genetic liability; drug dependence; opioid dependence
4.  Genetic Influences on Alcohol Use across Stages of Development: GABRA2 and Longitudinal Trajectories of Drunkenness from Adolescence to Young Adulthood 
Addiction biology  2013;19(6):1055-1064.
Longitudinal analyses allow us to understand how genetic risk unfolds across development, in a way that is not possible with cross-sectional analyses of individuals at different ages. This has received little attention in genetic association analyses. In this study, we test for genetic effects of GABRA2, a gene previously associated with alcohol dependence, on trajectories of drunkenness from age 14 to 25. We use data from 1070 individuals who participated in the prospective sample of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), in order to better understand the unfolding of genetic risk across development. Piecewise linear growth models were fit to model the influence of genotype on rate of increase in drunkenness from early adolescence to young adulthood (14–18 years), the change in drunkenness during the transition to adulthood (18–19 years), and the rate of change in drunkenness across young adulthood (≥ 19 years). Variation in GABRA2 was associated with an increase in drunkenness that occurred at the transition between adolescence and adulthood. The genotypic effect was more pronounced in females. These analyses illustrate the importance of longitudinal data to characterize how genetic effects unfold across development. The findings suggest that transitions across important developmental periods may alter the relative importance of genetic effects on patterns of alcohol use. The findings also suggest the importance of considering gender when evaluating genetic effects on drinking patterns in males and females.
PMCID: PMC3783626  PMID: 23692184
alcohol; COGA; GABRA2; genetic association; longitudinal; trajectories
5.  An ADH1B variant and peer drinking in progression to adolescent drinking milestones: Evidence of a gene-by-environment interaction 
Adolescent drinking is an important public health concern, one that is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. The functional variant rs1229984 in alcohol dehydrogenase 1B (ADH1B) has been associated at a genome-wide level with alcohol use disorders in diverse adult populations. However, few data are available regarding whether this variant influences early drinking behaviors and whether social context moderates this effect. This study examines the interplay between rs1229984 and peer drinking in the development of adolescent drinking milestones.
1,550 European and African American individuals who had a full drink of alcohol before age 18 were selected from a longitudinal study of youth as part of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). Cox proportional hazards regression, with GxE product terms in the final models, was used to study two primary outcomes during adolescence: age of first intoxication and age of first DSM-5 alcohol use disorder symptom.
The minor A allele of rs1229984 was associated with a protective effect for first intoxication (HR=0.56, 95% CI 0.41–0.76) and first DSM-5 symptom (HR=0.45, 95% CI 0.26–0.77) in the final models. Reporting that most or all best friends drink was associated with a hazardous effect for first intoxication (HR=1.81, 95% CI 1.62–2.01) and first DSM-5 symptom (HR=2.17, 95% 1.88–2.50) in the final models. Furthermore, there was a significant GxE interaction for first intoxication (p=.002) and first DSM-5 symptom (p=.01). Among individuals reporting none or few best friends drinking, the ADH1B variant had a protective effect for adolescent drinking milestones, but for those reporting most or all best friends drinking, this effect was greatly reduced.
Our results suggest that the risk factor of best friends drinking attenuates the protective effect of a well-established ADH1B variant for two adolescent drinking behaviors. These findings illustrate the interplay between genetic and environmental factors in the development of drinking milestones during adolescence.
PMCID: PMC4256939  PMID: 25257461
Gene-Environment Interaction; Adolescent; Alcohol Dehydrogenase; Peer drinking
6.  Genome-wide survival analysis of age at onset of alcohol dependence in extended high-risk COGA families* 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2014;142:56-62.
The age at onset of alcohol dependence (AD) is a critical moderator of genetic associations for alcohol dependence. The present study evaluated whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) can influence the age at onset of AD in large high-risk families from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA).
Genomewide SNP genotyping was performed in 1788 regular drinkers from 118 large European American families densely affected with alcoholism. We used a genome-wide Cox proportional hazards regression model to test for association between age at onset of AD and SNPs.
This family-based analysis identified an intergenic SNP, rs2168784 on chromosome 3 that showed strong evidence of association (p= 5 × 10−9) with age at onset of AD among regular drinkers. Carriers of the minor allele of rs2168784 had 1.5 times the hazard of AD onset as compared with those homozygous for the major allele. By the age of 20 years, nearly 30% of subjects homozygous for the minor allele were alcohol dependent while only 19% of those homozygous for the major allele were. We also identified intronic SNPs in the ADP-ribosylation factor like 15 (ARL15) gene on chromosome 5 (P = 1.11 × 10−8) and the UTP20 small subunit (UTP20) gene on chromosome 12 (P = 4.32 × 10−8) that were associated with age at onset of AD.
This extended family based genome-wide cox-proportional hazards analysis identified several loci that might be associated with age at onset of AD.
PMCID: PMC4127128  PMID: 24962325
GWAS; alcohol dependence; age at onset; survival analysis; SNP
7.  A meta-analysis of two genome-wide association studies to identify novel loci for maximum number of alcoholic drinks 
Human genetics  2013;132(10):1141-1151.
Maximum number of alcoholic drinks consumed in a 24-h period (maxdrinks) is a heritable (> 50%) trait and is strongly correlated with vulnerability to excessive alcohol consumption and subsequent alcohol dependence (AD). Several genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have studied alcohol dependence, but few have concentrated on excessive alcohol consumption. We performed two GWAS using maxdrinks as an excessive alcohol consumption phenotype: one in 118 extended families (N=2322) selected from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), and the other in a case-control sample (N=2593) derived from the Study of Addiction: Genes and Environment (SAGE). The strongest association in the COGA families was detected with rs9523562 (p = 2.1×10−6) located in an intergenic region on chromosome 13q31.1; the strongest association in the SAGE dataset was with rs67666182 (p = 7.1×10−7), located in an intergenic region on chromosome 8. We also performed a meta-analysis with these two GWAS and demonstrated evidence of association in both datasets for the LMO1 (p = 7.2×10−7) and PLCL1 genes (p = 4.1×10−6) with increased maxdrinks. A variant in AUTS2 and variants in INADL, C15orf32 and HIP1 that were associated with measures of alcohol consumption in a meta-analysis of GWAS studies and a GWAS of alcohol consumption factor score also showed nominal association in the current meta-analysis. The present study has identified several loci that warrant further examination in independent samples. Among the top SNPs in each of the dataset (p≤10−4) far more showed the same direction of effect in the other dataset than would be expected by chance (p = 2×10−3, 3×10−6), suggesting that there are true signals among these top SNPs, even though no SNP reached genome-wide levels of significance.
PMCID: PMC3776011  PMID: 23743675
Alcohol consumption; maximum number of alcoholic drinks; GWAS; COGA; SAGE
8.  Genetic and neurophysiological correlates of the age of onset of alcohol use disorders in adolescents and young adults 
Behavior genetics  2013;43(5):386-401.
Discrete time survival analysis (DTSA) was used to assess the age-specific association of event related oscillations (EROs) and CHRM2 gene variants on the onset of regular alcohol use and alcohol dependence. The subjects were 2938 adolescents and young adults ages 12 to 25. Results showed that the CHRM2 gene variants and ERO risk factors had hazards which varied considerably with age. The bulk of the significant age-specific associations occurred in those whose age of onset was under 16. These associations were concentrated in those subjects who at some time took an illicit drug. These results are consistent with studies which associate greater rates of alcohol dependence among those who begin drinking at an early age. The age specificity of the genetic and neurophysiological factors is consistent with recent studies of adolescent brain development, which locate an interval of heightened vulnerability to substance use disorders in the early to mid teens.
PMCID: PMC4110722  PMID: 23963516
alcoholism; CHRM2; survival analysis; ERO; genetics; adolescents
9.  A genome wide association study of alcohol dependence symptom counts in extended pedigrees identifies C15orf53 
Molecular psychiatry  2012;18(11):10.1038/mp.2012.143.
Several studies have identified genes associated with alcohol use disorders, but the variation in each of these genes explains only a small portion of the genetic vulnerability. The goal of the present study was to perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in extended families from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) to identify novel genes affecting risk for alcohol dependence. To maximize the power of the extended family design we used a quantitative endophenotype, measured in all individuals: number of alcohol dependence symptoms endorsed (symptom count). Secondary analyses were performed to determine if the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with symptom count were also associated with the dichotomous phenotype, DSM-IV alcohol dependence. This family-based GWAS identified SNPs in C15orf53 that are strongly associated with DSM-IV alcohol (p=4.5×10−8, inflation corrected p=9.4×10−7). Results with DSM-IV alcohol dependence in the regions of interest support our findings with symptom count, though the associations were less significant. Attempted replications of the most promising association results were conducted in two independent samples: non-overlapping subjects from the Study of Addiction: Genes and Environment (SAGE) and the Australian twin-family study of alcohol use disorders (OZALC). Nominal association of C15orf53 with symptom count was observed in SAGE. The variant that showed strongest association with symptom count, rs12912251 and its highly correlated variants (D′=1, r2≥ 0.95), has previously been associated with risk for bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC3752321  PMID: 23089632
DSM-IV alcohol dependence symptoms; Family-based GWAS; C15orf53; Quantitative traits
10.  Cis-Regulatory Variants Affect CHRNA5 mRNA Expression in Populations of African and European Ancestry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80204.
Variants within the gene cluster encoding α3, α5, and β4 nicotinic receptor subunits are major risk factors for substance dependence. The strongest impact on risk is associated with variation in the CHRNA5 gene, where at least two mechanisms are at work: amino acid variation and altered mRNA expression levels. The risk allele of the non-synonymous variant (rs16969968; D398N) primarily occurs on the haplotype containing the low mRNA expression allele. In populations of European ancestry, there are approximately 50 highly correlated variants in the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster and the adjacent PSMA4 gene region that are associated with CHRNA5 mRNA levels. It is not clear which of these variants contribute to the changes in CHRNA5 transcript level. Because populations of African ancestry have reduced linkage disequilibrium among variants spanning this gene cluster, eQTL mapping in subjects of African ancestry could potentially aid in defining the functional variants that affect CHRNA5 mRNA levels. We performed quantitative allele specific gene expression using frontal cortices derived from 49 subjects of African ancestry and 111 subjects of European ancestry. This method measures allele-specific transcript levels in the same individual, which eliminates other biological variation that occurs when comparing expression levels between different samples. This analysis confirmed that substance dependence associated variants have a direct cis-regulatory effect on CHRNA5 transcript levels in human frontal cortices of African and European ancestry and identified 10 highly correlated variants, located in a 9 kb region, that are potential functional variants modifying CHRNA5 mRNA expression levels.
PMCID: PMC3841173  PMID: 24303001
11.  The Genetics of Substance Dependence 
A large segment of the population suffers from addiction to alcohol, smoking, or illicit drugs. Not only do substance abuse and addiction pose a threat to health, but the consequences of addiction also impose a social and economic burden on families, communities, and nations. Genome-wide linkage and association studies have been used for addiction research with varying degrees of success. The most well-established genetic factors associated with alcohol dependence are in the genes encoding alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which oxidizes alcohol to acetaldehyde, and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2), which oxidizes acetaldehyde to acetate. Recently emerging genetic studies have linked variants in the genes encoding the α3, α5, and β4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits to smoking risk. However, the influence of these well-established genetic variants accounts for only a small portion of the heritability of alcohol and nicotine addiction, and it is likely that there are both common and rare risk variants yet to be identified. Newly developed DNA sequencing technologies could potentially advance the detection of rare variants with a larger impact on addiction risk.
PMCID: PMC3474605  PMID: 22703173
addiction; alcoholism; smoking; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; alcohol metabolizing genes
12.  Copy number variations in 6q14.1 and 5q13.2 are associated with alcohol dependence 
Excessive alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death and is highly correlated with alcohol dependence, a heritable phenotype. Many genetic factors for alcohol dependence have been found, but many remain unknown. In search of additional genetic factors, we examined the association between DSM-IV alcohol dependence and all common copy number variations (CNV) with good reliability in the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment (SAGE).
All participants in SAGE were interviewed using the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA), as a part of three contributing studies. 2,610 non-Hispanic European American samples were genotyped on the Illumina Human 1M array. We performed CNV calling by CNVpartition, PennCNV and QuantiSNP and only CNVs identified by all three software programs were examined. Association was conducted with the CNV (as a deletion/duplication) as well as with probes in the CNV region. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used to validate the CNVs in the laboratory.
CNVs in 6q14.1 (P= 1.04 × 10−6) and 5q13.2 (P= 3.37 × 10−4) were significantly associated with alcohol dependence after adjusting multiple tests. On chromosome 5q13.2 there were multiple candidate genes previously associated with various neurological disorders. The region on chromosome 6q14.1 is a gene desert that has been associated with mental retardation, and language delay. The CNV in 5q13.2 was validated whereas only a component of the CNV on 6q14.1 was validated by qPCR. Thus, the CNV on 6q14.1 should be viewed with caution.
This is the first study to show an association between DSM-IV alcohol dependence and CNVs. CNVs in regions previously associated with neurological disorders may be associated with alcohol dependence.
PMCID: PMC3436997  PMID: 22702843
Copy Number Variations; Alcohol dependence; CNV Accuracy
14.  Family-based Genome-wide Association Study of Frontal Theta Oscillations Identifies Potassium Channel Gene KCNJ6 
Genes, brain, and behavior  2012;11(6):712-719.
Event-related oscillations (EROs) represent highly heritable neuroelectric correlates of cognitive processes that manifest deficits in alcoholics and in offspring at high risk to develop alcoholism. Theta ERO to targets in the visual oddball task has been shown to be an endophenotype for alcoholism. A family-based genome-wide association study was performed for the frontal theta ERO phenotype using 634583 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) genotyped in 1560 family members from 117 families densely affected by alcohol use disorders, recruited in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Genome-wide significant association was found with several SNPs on chromosome 21 in KCNJ6 (a potassium inward rectifier channel; KIR3.2/GIRK2), with the most significant SNP at P = 4.7 × 10-10). The same SNPs were also associated with EROs from central and parietal electrodes, but with less significance, suggesting that the association is frontally focused. One imputed synonymous SNP in exon 4, highly correlated with our top three SNPs, was significantly associated with the frontal theta ERO phenotype. These results suggest KCNJ6 or its product GIRK2 account for some of the variations in frontal theta band oscillations. GIRK2 receptor activation contributes to slow inhibitory postsynaptic potentials that modulate neuronal excitability, and therefore influence neuronal networks.
PMCID: PMC3666338  PMID: 22554406
15.  Dosage Transmission Disequilibrium Test (dTDT) for Linkage and Association Detection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63526.
Both linkage and association studies have been successfully applied to identify disease susceptibility genes with genetic markers such as microsatellites and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs). As one of the traditional family-based studies, the Transmission/Disequilibrium Test (TDT) measures the over-transmission of an allele in a trio from its heterozygous parents to the affected offspring and can be potentially useful to identify genetic determinants for complex disorders. However, there is reduced information when complete trio information is unavailable. In this study, we developed a novel approach to “infer” the transmission of SNPs by combining both the linkage and association data, which uses microsatellite markers from families informative for linkage together with SNP markers from the offspring who are genotyped for both linkage and a Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS). We generalized the traditional TDT to process these inferred dosage probabilities, which we name as the dosage-TDT (dTDT). For evaluation purpose, we developed a simulation procedure to assess its operating characteristics. We applied the dTDT to the simulated data and documented the power of the dTDT under a number of different realistic scenarios. Finally, we applied our methods to a family study of alcohol dependence (COGA) and performed individual genotyping on complete families for the top signals. One SNP (rs4903712 on chromosome 14) remained significant after correcting for multiple testing Methods developed in this study can be adapted to other platforms and will have widespread applicability in genomic research when case-control GWAS data are collected in families with existing linkage data.
PMCID: PMC3653954  PMID: 23691058
16.  Pathway Analysis of Smoking Quantity in Multiple GWAS Identifies Cholinergic and Sensory Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e50913.
Cigarette smoking is a common addiction that increases the risk for many diseases, including lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have successfully identified and validated several susceptibility loci for nicotine consumption and dependence. However, the trait variance explained by these genes is only a small fraction of the estimated genetic risk. Pathway analysis complements single marker methods by including biological knowledge into the evaluation of GWAS, under the assumption that causal variants lie in functionally related genes, enabling the evaluation of a broad range of signals. Our approach to the identification of pathways enriched for multiple genes associated with smoking quantity includes the analysis of two studies and the replication of common findings in a third dataset. This study identified pathways for the cholinergic receptors, which included SNPs known to be genome-wide significant; as well as novel pathways, such as genes involved in the sensory perception of smell, that do not contain any single SNP that achieves that stringent threshold.
PMCID: PMC3515482  PMID: 23227220
17.  Copy Number Variation Accuracy in Genome-Wide Association Studies 
Human Heredity  2011;71(3):141-147.
Copy number variations (CNVs) are a major source of alterations among individuals and are a potential risk factor in many diseases. Numerous diseases have been linked to deletions and duplications of these chromosomal segments. Data from genome-wide association studies and other microarrays may be used to identify CNVs by several different computer programs, but the reliability of the results has been questioned.
To help researchers reduce the number of false-positive CNVs that need to be followed up with laboratory testing, we evaluated the relative performance of CNVPartition, PennCNV and QuantiSNP, and developed a statistical method for estimating sensitivity and positive predictive values of CNV calls and tested it on 96 duplicate samples in our dataset.
We found that the positive predictive rate increases with the number of probes in the CNV and the size of the CNV, with the highest positive predicted rates in CNVs of at least 500 kb and at least 100 probes. Our analysis also indicates that identifying CNVs reported by multiple programs can greatly improve the reproducibility rate and the positive predicted rate.
Our methods can be used by investigators to identify CNVs in genome-wide data with greater reliability.
PMCID: PMC3153341  PMID: 21778733
Accuracy; Copy number variations; False positives; Genome-wide association studies
18.  Variants Located Upstream of CHRNB4 on Chromosome 15q25.1 Are Associated with Age at Onset of Daily Smoking and Habitual Smoking 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33513.
Several genome-wide association and candidate gene studies have linked chromosome 15q24–q25.1 (a region including the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster) with alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence and smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. To further examine the impact of these genes on the development of substance use disorders, we tested whether variants within and flanking the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 gene cluster affect the transition to daily smoking (individuals who smoked cigarettes 4 or more days per week) in a cross sectional sample of adolescents and young adults from the COGA (Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism) families. Subjects were recruited from families affected with alcoholism (either as a first or second degree relative) and the comparison families. Participants completed the SSAGA interview, a comprehensive assessment of alcohol and other substance use and related behaviors. Using the Quantitative trait disequilibrium test (QTDT) significant association was detected between age at onset of daily smoking and variants located upstream of CHRNB4. Multivariate analysis using a Cox proportional hazards model further revealed that these variants significantly predict the age at onset of habitual smoking among daily smokers. These variants were not in high linkage disequilibrium (0.28
PMCID: PMC3306405  PMID: 22438940
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium, fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in linkage disequilibrium across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of the upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
PMCID: PMC2995013  PMID: 20700147
Nicotinic receptor; alpha5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer
CHRNA5, encoding the nicotinic α5 subunit, is implicated in multiple disorders, including nicotine addiction and lung cancer. Previous studies demonstrate significant associations between promoter polymorphisms and CHRNA5 mRNA expression, but the responsible sequence variants remain uncertain. To search for cis-regulatory variants, we measured allele-specific mRNA expression of CHRNA5 in human prefrontal cortex autopsy tissues and scanned the CHRNA5 locus for regulatory variants. A cluster of six frequent single-nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1979905, rs1979906, rs1979907, rs880395, rs905740, and rs7164030), in complete linkage disequilibrium (LD), fully account for a >2.5-fold allelic expression difference and a fourfold increase in overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression. This proposed enhancer region resides more than 13 kilobases upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. The same upstream variants failed to affect CHRNA5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes, indicating tissue-specific gene regulation. Other promoter polymorphisms were also correlated with overall CHRNA5 mRNA expression in the brain, but were inconsistent with allelic mRNA expression ratios, a robust and proximate measure of cis-regulatory variants. The enhancer region and the nonsynonymous polymorphism rs16969968 generate three main haplotypes that alter the risk of developing nicotine dependence. Ethnic differences in LD across the CHRNA5 locus require consideration of upstream enhancer variants when testing clinical associations.
PMCID: PMC2995013  PMID: 20700147
nicotinic receptor; α5 subunit; gene expression; nicotine dependence; lung cancer; enhancer

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