• dopamine receptor D4 gene;
  • DRD4 exon III VNTR;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • childhood ADHD;
  • family control;
  • case–control;
  • pilot data



Up to one-third of patients with bulimia nervosa (BN) report a history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, and the dopaminergic genes, especially the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4), have been associated independently with both binge eating and ADHD.


The purpose of this study was to (1) compare the frequency of DRD4 exon III VNTR variants in 157 BN probands and equal number of healthy controls; (2) assess transmission of DRD4 alleles in 68 families of patients with BN; and (3) explore the possible role of DRD4 gene in childhood ADHD history in a subgroup of 81 women with BN.


Our results showed that the BN probands and controls did not differ in DRD4 allele frequency. We also did not find evidence for preferential transmission of any DRD4 variant to the affected offspring with BN. However, the presence of either the 2-repeat or 7-repeat allele was associated with a history of childhood ADHD in BN (p = .038, odds ratio = 3.2).


Our findings suggest that although DRD4 may not be associated with the diagnosis of BN, its variants are associated with a history of childhood ADHD in BN probands. This may have relevance for the understanding, prevention, and treatment of BN that evolves in the context of childhood ADHD. © 2012 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)