Background: Cytosolic aldehyde dehydrogenase, or ALDH1A1, functions in ethanol detoxification, metabolism of neurotransmitters, and synthesis of retinoic acid. Because the promoter region of a gene can influence gene expression, the ALDH1A1 promoter regions were studied to identify polymorphism, to assess their functional significance, and to determine whether they were associated with a risk for developing alcoholism.
Methods: Sequence analysis was performed in the promoter region by using Asian, Caucasian, and African American subjects. The resulting polymorphisms were assessed for frequency in Asian, Caucasian, Jewish, and African American populations and tested for associations with alcohol dependence in Asian and African American populations of alcoholics and controls. The functional significance of each polymorphism was determined through in vitro expression analysis by using HeLa and HepG2 cells.
Results: Two polymorphisms, a 17 base pair (bp) deletion (−416/−432) and a 3 bp insertion (−524), were discovered in the ALDH1A1 promoter region:ALDH1A1*2 and ALDH1A1*3, respectively. ALDH1A1*2 was observed at frequencies of 0.035, 0.023, 0.023, and 0.012 in the Asian, Caucasian, Jewish, and African American populations, respectively. ALDH1A1*3 was observed only in the African American population, at a frequency of 0.029. By using HeLa and HepG2 cells for in vitro expression, the activity of the luciferase reporter gene was significantly decreased after transient transfection of ALDH1A1*3-luciferase compared with the wild-type construct ALDH1A1*1-luciferase. In an African American population, a trend for higher frequencies of the ALDH1A1*2 and ALDH1A1*3 alleles was observed in a population of alcoholics (p= 0.03 and f= 0.12, respectively) compared with the control population.
Conclusions: ALDH1A1*2 and ALDH1A1*3 may influence ALDH1A1 gene expression. Both ALDH1A1*2 and ALDH1A1*3 produce a trend in an African American population that may be indicative of an association with alcoholism; however, more samples are required to validate this observation. The underlying mechanisms contributing to these trends are still unknown.