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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • DRD4 VNTR;
  • genetics;
  • mediation;
  • novelty seeking;
  • structural equation modeling

ABSTRACT

The present study sought to integrate convergent lines of research on the associations among the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene, novelty seeking and drinking behaviors with the overall goal of elucidating genetic influences on problematic drinking in young adulthood. Specifically, this study tested a model in which novelty seeking mediated the relationship between DRD4 variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) genotype and problematic alcohol use. Participants (n = 90, 40 females) were heavy-drinking college students. Analyses using a structural equation modeling framework suggested that the significant direct path between DRD4 VNTR genotype and problematic alcohol use was reduced to a trend level in the context of a model that included novelty seeking as a mediator, thereby suggesting that the effects of DRD4 VNTR genotype on problematic alcohol use among heavy-drinking young adults were partially mediated by novelty seeking. Cross-group comparisons indicated that the relationships among the model variables were not significantly different in models for men versus women. These results extend recent findings of the association between this polymorphism of the DRD4 receptor gene, problematic alcohol use and novelty seeking. These findings may also help elucidate the specific pathways of risk associated with genetic influences on alcohol use and abuse phenotypes.