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Keywords:

  • Association study;
  • DSM-IV nicotine dependence;
  • nicotine;
  • nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

Nicotine binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and studies in animal models have shown that α4β2 receptors mediate many behavioral effects of nicotine. Human genetics studies have provided support that variation in the gene that codes for the α4 subunit influences nicotine dependence (ND), but the evidence for the involvement of the β2 subunit gene is less convincing. In this study, we examined the genetic association between variation in the genes that code for the α4 (CHRNA4) and β2 (CHRNB2) subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and a quantitative measure of lifetime DSM-IV ND symptom counts. We performed this analysis in two longitudinal family-based studies focused on adolescent antisocial drug abuse: the Center on Antisocial Drug Dependence (CADD, N = 313 families) and Genetics of Antisocial Drug Dependence (GADD, N = 111 families). Family-based association tests were used to examine associations between 14 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CHRNA4 and CHRNB2 and ND symptoms. Symptom counts were corrected for age, sex and clinical status prior to the association analysis. Results, when the samples were combined, provided modest evidence that SNPs in CHRNA4 are associated with ND. The minor allele at both rs1044394 (A; Z = 1.988, P = 0.047, unadjusted P-value) and rs1044396 (G; Z = 2.398, P = 0.017, unadjusted P-value) was associated with increased risk of ND symptoms. These data provide suggestive evidence that variation in the α4 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor may influence ND liability.