Associations of ADH and ALDH2 gene variation with self report alcohol reactions, consumption and dependence: An integrated analysis

Stuart MacGregor, Penelope A. Lind, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Narelle K. Hansell, Pamela A.F. Madden, Melinda M. Richter, Grant W. Montgomery, Nicholas G. Martin, Andrew C. Heath, John B. Whitfield

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159 Scopus citations


Alcohol dependence (AD) is a complex disorder with environmental and genetic origins. The role of two genetic variants in ALDH2 and ADH1B in AD risk has been extensively investigated. This study tested for associations between nine polymorphisms in ALDH2 and 41 in the seven ADH genes, and alcohol-related flushing, alcohol use and dependence symptom scores in 4597 Australian twins. The vast majority (4296) had consumed alcohol in the previous year, with 547 meeting DSM-IIIR criteria for AD. There were study-wide significant associations (P < 2.3 × 10-4) between ADH1B-Arg48His (rs1229984) and flushing and consumption, but only nominally significant associations (P < 0.01) with dependence. Individuals carrying the rs1229984 G-allele (48Arg) reported a lower prevalence of flushing after alcohol (P = 8.2 × 10-7), consumed alcohol on more occasions (P = 2.7 × 10-6), had a higher maximum number of alcoholic drinks in a single day (P = 2.7 × 10-6) and a higher overall alcohol consumption (P = 8.9 × 108) in the previous year than those with the less common A-allele (48His). After controlling for rs1229984, an independent association was observed between rs1042026 (ADH1B) and alcohol intake (P = 4.7 × 10-5) and suggestive associations (P < 0.001) between alcohol consumption phenotypes and rs1693482 (ADH1C), rs1230165 (ADH5) and rs3762894 (ADH4). ALDH2 variation was not associated with flushing or alcohol consumption, but was weakly associated with AD measures. These results bridge the gap between DNA sequence variation and alcohol-related behavior, confirming that the ADH1B-Arg48His polymorphism affects both alcohol-related flushing in Europeans and alcohol intake. The absence of study-wide significant effects on AD results from the low P-value required when testing multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms and phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-593
Number of pages14
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


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