• behavior;
  • conduct disorder;
  • genes;
  • heterosis;
  • multifactorial;
  • oppositional defiant disorder;
  • polygenic;
  • psychiatric

The present study is based on the proposal that complex disorders resulting from the effects of multiple genes are best investigated by simultaneously examining multiple candidate genes in the same group of subjects. We have examined the effect of 20 genes for dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenergic metabolism on a quantitative score for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 336 unrelated Caucasian subjects. The genotypes of each gene were assigned a score from 0 to 2, based on results from the literature or studies in an independent set of subjects (literature-based scoring), or results based on analysis of variance for the sample (optimized gene scoring). Multivariate linear regression analysis with backward elimination was used to determine which genes contributed most to the phenotype for both coding methods. For optimized gene scoring, three dopamine genes contributed to 2.3% of the variance, p=0.052; three serotonin genes contributed to 3%, p=0.015; and six adrenergic genes contributed to 6.9%, p=0.0006. For all genes combined, 12 genes contributed to 11.6% of the variance, p=0.0001. These results indicate that the adrenergic genes play a greater role in ADHD than either the dopaminergic or serotonergic genes combined. The results using literature-based gene scoring were similar. An examination of two additional comorbid phenotypes, conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), indicated they shared genes with ADHD. For ODD different genotypes of the same genes were often used. These results support the value of the simultaneous examination of multiple candidate genes.