Background: Some studies have reported that the A9 allele of the variable nucleotide tandem repeat (VNTR) of the gene which encodes the dopamine transporter (DAT1/SLC6A3) is associated with alcoholism withdrawal symptoms such as alcohol withdrawal seizures (WSs), whereas others did not. We investigated whether polymorphisms within the DAT1 gene are associated with WS taking into account some of the confounding factors such as the severity of alcohol dependence.
Methods: To further assess the role of this gene in WS, we genotyped the VNTR and 7 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) encompassing the DAT1 gene in a sample of 250 alcohol-dependent subjects (175 men and 75 women), of whom 24% exhibited WSs, taking into account the severity of alcohol dependence.
Results: The VNTR is associated with an increased risk of WSs (odd ratio = 3.5; p = 0.019), even when controlling for confounding factors (p = 0.031). As 2 SNPs, in roughly the same location of the gene (namely rs27072 and rs27048), are also associated with WSs, it is possible that the initial association of the VNTR polymorphism was tagging a specific haplotype of this gene. Indeed, in our sample of alcohol-dependent patients, 2 haplotypes were associated with a significantly different risk of WSs.
Conclusions: The present study adds evidence for a significant role of the 3′ part of the DAT1 gene in WS of alcohol-dependent patients, not only because it is in accordance with previous work, but also because of larger statistical power (as relying on a sample over sampled with the studied phenotype), as it gives a more precise analysis of different SNPs within the DAT1 gene, and as it confirms the association when major potentially confounding factors are taken into account in a logistical regression analysis.