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Clinical and Molecular Genetics of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome

Two Related Polygenic Disorders



    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Medical Genetics, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California 91010, USA
    • Address for correspondence: David E. Comings, M.D., Department of Medical Genetics, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California 91010, USA. Voice: 818-359-8111;

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Abstract: ADHD is a polygenic disorder due to the additive effect of genes affecting dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, and other neurotransmitters. Some of the specific loci involved are dopamine genes—DRD2, DRD4, DRD5, and the dopamine transporter; norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine (EPI) genes—dopamine b-hydroxylase, ADRA2A, ADRA2C, PNMT, norepinephrine transporter, MAOA, COMT; serotonin genes—TDO2, HTR1A, HTR1DA, serotonin transporter; GABA genes—GABRB3; androgen receptor and other genes. This model is consistent with all of the present knowledge about ADHD including (a) the increased frequency of ADHD in the relatives of ADHD probands, (b) the presence of a wide spectrum of comorbid behaviors (depression, anxiety, learning, conduct, oppositional-defiant, conduct and substance abuse disorders) in ADHD probands and their relatives on both parental sides, (c) the close relationship to Tourette syndrome (TS), (d) the failure to find the genes for TS using linkage analysis, (e) the brain imaging studies showing hypometabolism of the frontal lobes, (f) the relationship between dopamine D2 receptor density and regional blood flow, (g) the correlation between tics and dopamine D2 receptor density in TS, (h) the motor hyperactivity of dopamine transporter and dopamine D3 receptor gene knockout mice, (i) the LeMoal and Shaywitz dopamine deficiency animal models of ADHD, (j) the NE models of ADHD, (k) the failure to explain ADHD on the basis of any single neurotransmitter defect, (l) the response of ADHD to dopamine and a2-adrenergic agonists, (m) the small percentage of the variance of specific behaviors accounted for by each gene, and numerous other aspects of ADHD. The implications of the polygenic model for the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and TS, as well as other psychiatric disorders, are reviewed.