Despite evidence for heritable variation in cannabis involvement and the discovery of cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands, no consistent patterns have emerged from candidate endocannabinoid (eCB) genetic association studies of cannabis involvement. Given interactions between eCB and stress systems and associations between childhood stress and cannabis involvement, it may be important to consider childhood adversity in the context of eCB-related genetic variation. We employed a system-level gene-based analysis of data from the Comorbidity and Trauma Study (N = 1,558) to examine whether genetic variation in six eCB genes (anabolism: DAGLA, DAGLB, NAPEPLD; catabolism: MGLL, FAAH; binding: CNR1; SNPs N=65) and childhood sexual abuse (CSA) predict cannabis dependence symptoms. Significant interactions with CSA emerged for MGLL at the gene level (p= .009), and for rs604300 within MGLL (ΔR2=.007, p < .001), the latter of which survived SNP-level Bonferroni correction and was significant in an additional sample with similar directional effects (N = 859; ΔR2 = .005, p = .026). Furthermore, in a third sample (N = 312), there was evidence that rs604300 genotype interacts with early life adversity to predict threat-related basolateral amygdala habituation, a neural phenotype linked to the eCB system and addiction (ΔR2 = .013, p = .047). Rs604300 may be related to epigenetic modulation of MGLL expression. These results are consistent with rodent models implicating 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an endogenous cannabinoid metabolized by the enzyme encoded by MGLL, in the etiology of stress adaptation related to cannabis dependence, but require further replication.
- Childhood abuse