Association analysis of the dopamine D4 gene exon III VNTR and heroin abuse in Chinese subjects

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Abstract

Although social and cultural influences are clearly important, family, twin and adoption studies indicate that genes contribute significantly to substance abuse.1–3 Substance abuse is associated with novelty seeking, a heritable human personality trait which may be influenced by alleles of the dopamine D4 (DRD4) gene exon III VNTR.4,5 Consequently Kotler et al6 analysed the DRD4 VNTR in opiate-dependent subjects from Israel, and found a significant excess of the 7-repeat allele. We have attempted to replicate this finding using a Han Chinese case-control sample of 121 heroin-dependent subjects and 154 normal controls. We found two 7-repeat alleles which occurred exclusively in the patient group, and overall there was an excess of longer alleles, which did not reach significance (χ2 = 7.04; P = 0.07). When the D4 VNTR was divided into ‘long’ (5–7 repeats) and ‘short’ (2–4 repeats), a significant excess of long alleles was observed in the patient group (P = 0.023, one-tailed), with an odds ratio of 2.30 (95% CI 1.07–4.93). We conclude that our findings support the hypothesis that alleles of the DRD4 exon III VNTR are susceptibility factors for heroin abuse.

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Li, T., Xu, K., Deng, H. et al. Association analysis of the dopamine D4 gene exon III VNTR and heroin abuse in Chinese subjects. Mol Psychiatry 2, 413–416 (1997) doi:10.1038/sj.mp.4000310

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Keywords

  • addiction
  • opioids
  • substance abuse
  • catecholamines
  • behaviour genetics
  • allelic association

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