Smoking is a major risk factor for several somatic diseases and is also emerging as a causal factor for neuropsychiatric disorders. Genome-wide association (GWA) and candidate gene studies for smoking behavior and nicotine dependence (ND) have disclosed too few predisposing variants to account for the high estimated heritability. Previous large-scale GWA studies have had very limited phenotypic definitions of relevance to smoking-related behavior, which has likely impeded the discovery of genetic effects. We performed GWA analyses on 1114 adult twins ascertained for ever smoking from the population-based Finnish Twin Cohort study. The availability of 17 smoking-related phenotypes allowed us to comprehensively portray the dimensions of smoking behavior, clustered into the domains of smoking initiation, amount smoked and ND. Our results highlight a locus on 16p12.3, with several single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the vicinity of CLEC19A showing association (P<1 × 10-6) with smoking quantity. Interestingly, CLEC19A is located close to a previously reported attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) linkage locus and an evident link between ADHD and smoking has been established. Intriguing preliminary association (P<1 × 10-5) was detected between DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) ND diagnosis and several SNPs in ERBB4, coding for a Neuregulin receptor, on 2q33. The association between ERBB4 and DSM-IV ND diagnosis was replicated in an independent Australian sample. Recently, a significant increase in ErbB4 and Neuregulin 3 (Nrg3) expression was revealed following chronic nicotine exposure and withdrawal in mice and an association between NRG3 SNPs and smoking cessation success was detected in a clinical trial. ERBB4 has previously been associated with schizophrenia; further, it is located within an established schizophrenia linkage locus and within a linkage locus for a smoker phenotype identified in this sample. In conclusion, we disclose novel tentative evidence for the involvement of ERBB4 in ND, suggesting the involvement of the Neuregulin/ErbB signalling pathway in addictions and providing a plausible link between the high co-morbidity of schizophrenia and ND.
- genome-wide association analysis
- nicotine dependence
- smoking behavior
- smoking quantity