• psychiatric genetics;
  • GABA(A) receptor;
  • GABRA2;
  • alcohol dependence


Alcohol dependence is a highly prevalent disorder that is associated with serious morbidity and mortality. Because the GABAA neurotransmitter receptor is an important mediator for several behavioral effects of alcohol, genes encoding GABA-related proteins are functional candidates to influence risk of alcohol dependence. Two genome-wide scans showed linkage of alcohol dependence to a region on chromosome 4p, which contains a cluster of genes encoding GABAA receptor subunits. A recent effort to fine map that region showed a haplotypic association of alcohol dependence to the gene encoding the GABAA receptor α-2 subunit (GABRA2). We examined 10 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning the coding region of this gene in samples of European American subjects with alcohol dependence (n = 446), and controls (n = 334) screened to exclude substance use disorders. There was evidence of association to alcohol dependence for seven adjacent markers spanning 98,000 bp in the middle and 3′-portion of the GABRA2 gene (range of P-values = 0.008–0.03). When the subset of the alcohol-dependent subjects excluding those with a diagnosis of cocaine or opioid dependence or major depressive episode (n = 198) was examined, the strength of the association was increased across these 7 SNPs (range of P-values = 0.002–0.007). Two common haplotypes in this region accounted for 90.8% of chromosomes. The more common haplotype was present in 55.6% of control group chromosomes versus 48.2% of alcohol-dependent subjects (P = 0.007) and 45.8% of subjects with alcohol dependence but no co-morbid drug dependence or depression (P = 0.003). These findings replicate and extend recently reported findings, which together underscore the potential contribution of polymorphic variation at the GABRA2 locus to the risk for alcohol dependence. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.