The effects of nicotine on cognitive processes such as learning and memory may play an important role in the addictive liability of tobacco. However, it remains unknown whether genetic variability modulates the effects of nicotine on learning and memory. The present study characterized the effects of acute, chronic, and withdrawal from chronic nicotine administration on fear conditioning, somatic signs, and the elevated plus maze in 8 strains of inbred mice. Strain-dependent effects of acute nicotine and nicotine withdrawal on contextual fear conditioning, somatic signs, and the elevated plus maze were observed, but no association between the effects of acute nicotine and nicotine withdrawal on contextual fear conditioning were observed, suggesting that different genetic substrates may mediate these effects. The identification of genetic factors that may alter the effects of nicotine on cognition may lead to more efficacious treatments for nicotine addiction.
Nicotine; Genetics; Addiction; Anxiety; Learning; Withdrawal
A genome-wide scan was carried out on a segregating F2 population of rats derived from reciprocal intercrosses between two inbred strains of rats, Fisher 344 (F344) and Wistar Kyoto (WKY) that differ significantly in their behavioral coping responses to stress measured by the defensive burying (DB) test. The DB test measures differences in coping strategies by assaying an animal’s behavioral response to an immediate threat. We have previously identified three X-linked loci contributing to the phenotypic variance in behavioral coping. Here we report on six significant autosomal quantitative trait loci (QTL) related to different behaviors in the DB test:one for the number of shocks received, three for number of prod approaches, one for latency to bury, and one pleiotropic locus affecting both approach and latency. These QTL contributing to different aspects of coping behaviors show that the effect of genotype on phenotype is highly dependent on lineage. The WKY lineage was particularly influential, with five out of the six QTL affecting coping behavior only in rats of the WKY lineage, and one locus affecting only those in the F344 lineage. Thus, epigenetic factors, primarily of WKY origin, may significantly modulate the genetic contribution to variance in behavioral responses to stress in the DB test.
Coping; defensive burying; epigenetic; lineage; linear modeling; QTL; stress
A recent meta-analysis (Burt, 2009) indicated that shared environmental influences (C) do not contribute to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Unfortunately, the meta-analysis relied almost exclusively on classical twin studies. Although useful in many ways, some of the assumptions of the classical twin model (e.g., dominant genetic and shared environmental influences do not simultaneously influence the phenotype) can artifactually decrease estimates of C. There is thus a need to confirm that dominant genetic influences are not suppressing estimates of C on ADHD. The current study sought to do just this via the use of a nuclear twin family model, which allows researchers to simultaneously model and estimate dominant genetic and shared environmental influences. We examined two independent samples of child twins: 312 pairs from the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR) and 854 pairs from the PrEschool Twin Study in Sweden (PETSS). Shared environmental influences were found to be statistically indistinguishable from zero and accounted for less than 5% of the variance. We conclude that the presence of dominant genetic influences does not account for the absence of C on ADHD.
ADHD; nuclear twin family model; shared environment; genetic influences
Behavioral inhibition is a temperamental trait that refers to slow approach to novel items, shyness towards new people, and fearfulness in new situations, and individuals may develop inhibited response styles by as early as two years of age. There are important methodological considerations in the assessment of early temperament, with parental report and observational measures providing both corroborative and unique data. The present study examined behavioral inhibition measured by parental report and observational measures in a genetically informative sample to delineate the agreement between the methods and the uniqueness of each method, and to estimate the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on the common and unique variance. The biometric, psychometric, and rater bias models were conducted to study the covariance between measurement modalities. Overall, the results suggested a common phenotype was assessed by both parents and observers. The latent phenotype underlying parental and observational measures of behavioral inhibition was moderately to substantially heritable.
temperament; behavioral inhibition; rater bias; toddler; shyness; twin study methods; parent report; observational measures
Longitudinal studies document an association of pulmonary function with cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults. Previous analyses have identified a genetic contribution to the relationship between pulmonary function with fluid intelligence. The goal of the current analysis was to apply the biometric dual change score model to consider the possibility of temporal dynamics underlying the genetic covariance between aging trajectories for pulmonary function and fluid intelligence. Longitudinal data from the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging were available from 808 twins ranging in age from 50 to 88 years at the first wave. Participants completed up to six assessments covering a 19-year period. Measures at each assessment included spatial and speed factors and pulmonary function. Model-fitting indicated that genetic variance for FEV1 was a leading indicator of variation in age changes for spatial and speed factors. Thus, these data indicate a genetic component to the directional relationship from decreased pulmonary function to decreased function of fluid intelligence.
Pulmonary function; Cognitive function; Dual-change-score model; Longitudinal twin data; Statistical analysis; Aging; Health
Multiple studies have provided evidence for genetic associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) located on the CHRNA5/A3/B4 gene cluster and various phenotypes related to Nicotine Dependence (Greenbaum et al. 2009). Only a few studies have investigated other substances of abuse. The current study has two aims, (1) to extend previous findings by focusing on associations between the CHRNA5/A3/B4 gene cluster and age of initiation of several different substances, and (2) to investigate heterogeneity in age of initiation across the different substances. All analyses were conducted with a subset of the Add Health study with available genetic data. The first aim was met by modeling onset of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, inhalants, and other substance use using survival mixture analysis (SMA). Ten SNPs in CHRNA5/A3/B4 were used to predict phenotypic differences in the risk of onset, and differences between users and non-users. The survival models aim at investigating differences in the risk of initiation across the 5–18 age range for each phenotype separately. Significant or marginally significant genetic effects were found for all phenotypes. The genetic effects were mainly related to the risk of initiation and to a lesser extent to discriminating between users and non-users. To address the second goal, the survival analyses were complemented by a latent class analysis that modeled all phenotypes jointly. One of the ten SNPs was found to predict differences between the early and late onset classes. Taken together, our study provides evidence for a general role of the CHRNA5/A3/B4 gene cluster in substance use initiation that is not limited to nicotine and alcohol.
Survival mixture analysis; Nicotine initiation; Substance use; CHRNA5/B3/A4 cluster
Some BALB/c substrains exhibit different levels of aggression. We compared aggression levels between male BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ substrains using the resident intruder paradigm. These substrains were also assessed in other tests of emotionality and information processing including the open field, forced swim, fear conditioning, and prepulse inhibition tests. We also evaluated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) previously reported between these BALB/c substrains. Finally, we compared BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ mice for genomic deletions or duplications, collectively termed copy number variants (CNVs), to identify candidate genes that might underlie the observed behavioral differences. BALB/cJ mice showed substantially higher aggression levels than BALB/cByJ mice; however, only minor differences in other behaviors were observed. None of the previously reported SNPs were verified. Eleven CNV regions were identified between the two BALB/c substrains. Our findings identify a robust difference in aggressive behavior between BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ substrains, which could be the result of the identified CNVs.
Aggression; Resident intruder; BALB/c; CNV; Substrain
Multiple twin, family, and genetic studies have rendered substantial evidence supporting an association between hereditary factors and smoking initiation and maintenance. To investigate further the relationships between the DRD2 genotypes, cigarette use and nicotine dependence, we examined the prevalence of polymorphisms in the TaqIA (A1 and A2) and the TaqIB (B1 and B2) alleles among a series of 608 non-Hispanic White bladder cancer patients and 608 matched controls. Among ever-smoking controls, A1 and B1 genotypes exhibited a greater smoking intensity and were significantly younger at the age of initiation than A2A2 or B2B2 genotypes (two-sided P < 0.05). Among former smoking cases, persons with the A1 genotypes exhibited significantly higher mean pack-years and years of smoking, and were younger at the age of initiation than were persons with the A2A2 genotype (two-sided P < 0.05). Additionally, current smokers with the A1 genotypes reported fewer quit attempts than those with the A2A2 genotype (two-sided P < 0.01). The present study suggests that the DRD2 alleles A1 and B1 confer greater vulnerability to tobacco use.
DRD2; Bladder cancer; Nicotine dependence
Genome-wide studies of psychiatric conditions frequently fail to explain a substantial proportion of variance, and replication of individual SNP effects is rare. We demonstrate a selective scoring approach, in which variants from several genes known to directly affect the dopamine system are considered concurrently to explain individual differences in cocaine dependence symptoms. 273 SNPs from eight dopamine-related genes were tested for association with cocaine dependence symptoms in an initial training sample. We identified a four-SNP score that accounted for 0.55% of the variance in a separate testing sample (p = 0.037). These findings suggest that 1) limiting investigated SNPs to those located in genes of theoretical importance improves the chances of identifying replicable effects by reducing statistical penalties for multiple testing, and 2) considering top-associated SNPs in the aggregate can reveal replicable effects that are too small to be identified at the level of individual SNPs.
candidate gene; cocaine dependence; dopamine
It is likely that all complex behaviors and diseases result from interactions between genetic vulnerabilities and environmental factors. Accurately identifying such gene-environment interactions is of critical importance for genetic research on health and behavior. In a previous article we proposed a set of models for testing alternative relationships between a phenotype (P) and a putative moderator (M) in twin studies. These include the traditional bivariate Cholesky model, an extension of that model that allows for interactions between M and the underling influences on P, and a model in which M has a non-linear main effect on P. Here we use simulations to evaluate the type I error rates, power, and performance of the Bayesian Information Criterion under a variety of data generating mechanisms and samples sizes (n=2000 and n=500 twin pairs). In testing the extension of the Cholesky model, false positive rates consistently fell short of the nominal Type I error rates (α=.10, .05, .01). With adequate sample size (n=2000 pairs), the correct model had the lowest BIC value in nearly all simulated datasets. With lower sample sizes, models specifying non-linear main effects were more difficult to distinguish from models containing interaction effects. In addition, we provide an illustration of our approach by examining possible interactions between birthweight and the genetic and environmental influences on child and adolescent anxiety using previously collected data. We found a significant interaction between birthweight and the genetic and environmental influences on anxiety. However, the interaction was accounted for by non-linear main effects of birthweight on anxiety, verifying that interaction effects need to be tested against alternative models.
gene-environment correlation; gene-environment interaction; gene-environment moderation; simulation study; twin study
The fragile X disorder spectrum, due to a CGG expansion in FMR1, includes fragile X syndrome (>200 repeats) and the premutation-associated disorders of ovarian insufficiency and tremor/ataxia syndrome (~55–199 repeats). Altered neurobehavioral profiles including variation of phenotypes associated with mood and anxiety may be expected among younger premutation carriers given this spectrum of disorders. However, previous studies have produced conflicting findings, providing the motivation to examine these phenotypes further. We investigated measures of mood and anxiety in 119 males and 446 females age 18–50 ascertained from families with a history of fragile X syndrome and from the general population. Scores were analyzed using a linear model with repeat length as the main predictor, adjusting for potential confounders. Repeat length was not associated with anxiety, but was marginally associated with depression and negative affect in males and negative affect only in females. These results suggest that premutation carriers may be at risk for emotional morbidity; however, phenotypic differences were subtle and of small effect size.
FXTAS; FMR1; Premutation; CGG repeat; Neurobehavior; Depression; Anxiety
We recently reported elevated symptoms associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among adult female carriers of the FMR1 premutation. To gain insight into the contribution of this mutation in the context of polygenes, we examined the proportion of variation in these symptoms due to residual genetic factors after adjustment for the effect of the premutation. To accomplish this, we performed a familial aggregation analysis of ADHD symptoms among 231 females from 82 pedigrees using scores from the Connors Adult ADHD Rating Scales. Results indicate that after accounting for the effect of FMR1, there are significant residual polygenic effects on self-reported symptoms of ADHD, as measured by the ADHD Index (p = 0.0117) and problems with self-concept (p = 0.0110), one specific symptom domain associated with ADHD. For both measures, FMR1 accounts for ~5% of the variance while polygenes account for ~50% of the residual variance, suggesting that the premutation acts in concert with additional genetic loci to influence the severity of ADHD symptoms.
CGG repeat; Triplet repeat; FMR1; Fragile X syndrome; ADHD; Familial aggregation
Despite its high heritability, genetic association studies of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have often resulted in somewhat small, inconsistent effects. Refining the ADHD phenotype beyond a dichotomous diagnosis and testing associations with continuous information from the underlying symptom dimensions may result in more consistent genetic findings. This study further examined the association between ADHD and the DRD4, DAT1, and 5HTT genes by testing their association with multivariate phenotypes derived from continuous measures of ADHD symptom severity. DNA was collected in 202 families consisting of at least one ADHD proband and at least one parent or sibling. VNTR polymorphisms of the DRD4 and DAT1 genes were significantly associated with the continuous ADHD phenotype. The association with DRD4 was driven by both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms, while the association with DAT1 was driven primarily by inattentive symptoms. These results use novel methods to build upon important connections between dopamine genes and their final behavioral manifestation as symptoms of ADHD.
ADHD; dopamine; FBAT; genetic; serotonin
Mice of the 129/J (129) and C57BL/6ByJ (B6) strains and their reciprocal F1 and F2 hybrids were offered solutions of ethanol, sucrose, citric acid, quinine hydrochloride, and NaCI in two-bottle choice tests. Consistent with earlier work, the B6 mice drank more ethanol, sucrose, citric acid, and quinine hydrochloride solution and less NaCI solution than did 129 mice. Analyses of each generation’s means and distributions showed that intakes of ethanol, quinine, sucrose, and NaCI were influenced by a few genes. The mode of inheritance was additive in the case of ethanol and quinine, for sucrose the genotype of the 129 strain was recessive, and for NaCI it was dominant. Citric acid intake appeared to be influenced by many genes with small effects, with the 129 genotype dominant. Correlations of sucrose consumption with ethanol and citric acid consumption were found among mice of the F2 generation, and the genetically determined component of these correlations was stronger than the component related to environmental factors. The genetically determined correlation between sucrose and ethanol intakes is consistent with the hypothesis that the higher ethanol intake by B6 mice depends, in part, on higher hedonic attractiveness of its sweet taste component.
Mouse; genetics; ethanol consumption; sweet; salty; bitter; sour
Associations of height and head circumference with IQ are well documented, but much less is known about the association of IQ with other anthropometric measures or the mechanisms behind these associations. We therefore analyzed the associations between IQ and several anthropometric measures using a twin-study design. Twins born in Minnesota were assessed at either age 11 (756 complete pairs) or 17 (626 complete pairs) and analyzed using genetic modeling. Head circumference and height showed the most consistent positive associations with IQ, whereas more detailed anthropometric measures were not significantly better predictors of IQ. These associations were mainly due to common genetic factors. Our results suggest that the same genetic factors have an effect on physical and cognitive development. Head circumference and height capture information on children’s physical development, which is partly associated also with cognitive development.
IQ; genetic factors; height; head circumference; children; twins
To assess which nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are involved in the aversive aspects of nicotine withdrawal, brain reward function and the somatic signs of nicotine withdrawal were assessed in mice that lack α7 and β4 nAChR subunits. Brain reward function was assessed with the intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) procedure, in which elevations in ICSS thresholds reflect an anhedonic mood state. At 3–6 h of spontaneous nicotine/saline withdrawal, thresholds were elevated in nicotinewithdrawing α7+/+ and β4+/+, but not α7−/− or β4−/−, mice compared with saline-withdrawing mice, indicating a delay in the onset of withdrawal in the knockout mice. From 8 to 100 h of withdrawal, thresholds in α7+/+ and α7−/− mice were equally elevated, whereas thresholds in β4+/+ and β4−/− mice returned to baseline levels. Somatic signs were attenuated in nicotine-withdrawing β4−/−, but not α7−/−, mice. Administration of a low dose of the nAChR antagonist mecamylamine induced threshold elevations in α7−/−, but not α7+/+, mice, whereas the highest dose tested only elevated thresholds in α7+/+ mice. Mecamylamine-induced threshold elevations were similar in β4−/− and β4+/+ mice. In conclusion, null mutation of the α7 and β4 nAChR subunits resulted in a delayed onset of the anhedonic aspects of the spontaneous nicotine withdrawal syndrome. Previous findings of attenuated somatic signs of nicotine withdrawal in β4−/−, but not α7−/−, mice were confirmed in the present study, indicating an important role for β4-containing nAChRs in the somatic signs of nicotine withdrawal. The mecamylamine-precipitated withdrawal data suggest that compensatory adaptations may occur in constitutive α7−/− mice or that mecamylamine may interact with other receptors besides nAChRs in these mice. In summary, the present results indicate an important role for α7 and β4-containing nAChRs in the anhedonic or somatic signs of nicotine withdrawal.
Intracranial self-stimulation; Somatic signs; Reward deficit; Anhedonia; Mecamylamine; nAChR
The current study examined the association between substance use in the household during childhood, parental attitudes towards substance use and lifetime substance use in males. Subjects included 1081 monozygotic and 707 dizygotic twins from the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders. Retrospective reports of substance use and features of the family environment (adult household substance use and parental attitudes towards substance use) were obtained using a life history interview. A trivariate Cholesky decomposition was conducted using the program Mx to decompose common shared environmental variance. Findings suggest that family environmental factors accounted for a large proportion of the shared environmental effects for illicit drug use. Results illustrate an important way of extending behavior genetic research to reveal specific etiological environmental mechanisms.
Substance use; Shared environment; Family environment; Twins; Twin study
There is strong evidence for shared genetic factors contributing to childhood externalizing disorders and substance abuse. Externalizing disorders often precede early substance experimentation, leading to the idea that individuals inherit a genetic vulnerability to generalized disinhibitory psychopathology. Genetic variation in the CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4 gene cluster has been associated with early substance experimentation, nicotine dependence, and other drug behaviors. This study examines whether the CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4 locus is correlated also with externalizing behaviors in three independent longitudinally assessed adolescent samples. We developed a common externalizing behavior phenotype from the available measures in the three samples, and tested for association with 10 SNPs in the gene cluster. Significant results were detected in two of the samples, including rs8040868, which remained significant after controlling for smoking quantity. These results expand on previous work focused mainly on drug behaviors, and support the hypothesis that variation in the CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4 locus is associated with early externalizing behaviors.
nicotinic receptor genes; externalizing behaviors; association study; disinhibition; drug behaviors
Very different neurocognitive processes appear to be involved in cognitive abilities such as verbal and non-verbal ability as compared to learning abilities taught in schools such as reading and mathematics. However, twin studies that compare similarity for monozygotic and dizygotic twins suggest that the same genes are largely responsible for genetic influence on these diverse aspects of cognitive function. It is now possible to test this evidence for strong pleiotropy using DNA alone from samples of unrelated individuals. Here we used this new method with 1.7 million DNA markers for a sample of 2,500 unrelated children at age 12 to investigate for the first time the extent of pleiotropy between general cognitive ability (aka intelligence) and learning abilities (reading, mathematics and language skills). We also compared these DNA results to results from twin analyses using the same sample and measures. The DNA-based method revealed strong genome-wide pleiotropy: Genetic correlations were greater than 0.70 between general cognitive ability and language, reading, and mathematics, results that were highly similar to twin study estimates of genetic correlations. These results indicate that genes related to diverse neurocognitive processes have general rather than specific effects.
Pleiotropy; Intelligence; Learning abilities; Mathematics; Language; GCTA; Twins; Heritability; Cognition
We provide an illustration of an application of the elastic net to a large number of common genetic variants in the context of the search for the genetic bases of an endophenotype conceivably related to individual differences in learning. GABA concentration in the occipital cortex, a critical area for reading, was obtained in a group (n = 76) of children aged 6–10 years. Two extreme groups, high and low, were selected for genotyping with the 650Y Illumina array chip (Ilmn650Y). An elastic net approach was applied to the resulting SNP dataset; 100 SNPs were identified for each chromosome as “interesting” based on having the highest absolute value coefficients. The analyses highlighted chromosomes 15 and 20, which contained 55 candidate genes. The STRING partner analyses of the associated proteins pointed to a number of related genes, most notably, GABA and NTRK receptors.
Genetic association analysis; GABA concentration; Elastic net; Occipital cortex; Reading acquisition
Although there has been much interest in the relation between brain size and cognition, few studies have investigated this relation within a genetic framework and fewer still in non-adult samples. We analyzed the genetic and environmental covariance between structural MRI data from four brain regions (Total Brain Volume, Neocortex, White Matter, and Prefrontal Cortex), and four cognitive measures (Verbal IQ (VIQ), Performance IQ (PIQ), Reading Ability, and Processing Speed), in a sample of 41 MZ twin pairs and 30 same-sex DZ twin pairs (mean age at cognitive test = 11.4 years; mean age at scan = 15.4 years). Multivariate Cholesky decompositions were performed with each brain volume measure entered first, followed by the four cognitive measures. Consistent with previous research, each brain and cognitive measure was found to be significantly heritable. The novel finding was the significant genetic but not environmental covariance between brain volumes and cognitive measures. Specifically, PIQ shared significant common genetic variance with all four measures of brain volume (rg = .58 –.82). In contrast, VIQ shared significant genetic influence with Neocortex volume only (rg= .58). Processing Speed was significant with Total Brain Volume (rg = .79), Neocortex (rg = .64), and White Matter (rg =.89), but not Prefrontal Cortex. The only brain measure to share genetic influence with Reading was Total Brain Volume (rg =.32), which also shared genetic influences with processing speed.
twin design; MRI; brain volume; intelligence; processing speed; reading
An increasing body of evidence shows that many ‘environmental’ measures are heritable, indicating genetic involvement in environmental exposure (or gene–environment correlation). In the present study we attempt to clarify why three such ‘environmental’ measures (maternal negativity, paternal negativity and negative life events) are consistently found to be heritable. Through multivariate genetic analysis of a sample of adolescent twins from the UK we show that the heritability of these putative environmental measures can be explained via their association with five behavioural phenotypes: oppositionality, delinquency, physical aggression, depression and anxiety. This is consistent with the notion that being genetically susceptible to certain behavioural difficulties could lead to exposure to certain life events, and this may account for the reported heritability of ‘environmental’ measures. Results are discussed in the context of possible active, evocative and passive gene–environment correlations.
Aggression; Anxiety; Delinquency; Depression; Gene–environment correlation; Maternal negativity; Negative life events; Oppositionality; Paternal negativity