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Pharmacogenetics. 2001 Dec;11(9):815-24.

Functional polymorphism in the alcohol dehydrogenase 3 (ADH3) promoter.

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  • 1Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


The ADH3 gene encodes alcohol dehydrogenase 3 (ADH3)/glutathione-dependent formaldehyde dehydrogenase, the ancestral and most conserved form of alcohol dehydrogenase. ADH3 is expressed in all tissues examined and the enzyme is essential for formaldehyde scavenging. We have screened the promoter region including exon 1 and exons 5, 6 and 7 of the ADH3 gene for allelic variants. Using 80 samples of genomic DNA from Swedes as template, the various parts of the gene were PCR amplified and subsequently analyzed on single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) gels. No abnormal migration patterns could be detected by SSCP analysis of exons 5, 6 and 7 while for the promoter region, a large number of the samples displayed differences in SSCP gel migration patterns. Cloning and sequence analysis revealed four possible base pair exchanges in the promoter region. Two transitions were found at position -197 and -196, GG --> AA, one at position -79, G --> A and finally, close to the transcription start site, a fourth transition was found at position +9, C --> T. An allele specific PCR method was developed and allele frequencies were determined in three populations: Chinese, Spanish and Swedish. GG-197,-196 and AA-197,-196 alleles were common in all three populations, G-79 and A-79 were common in Swedes and Spaniards but only A-79 was found among Chinese. T+9 was the most rare allele with an allele frequency of 1.5% in Swedes. Finally, promoter activity assessments and electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated that the C+9 --> T+9 exchange resulted in a significant transcriptional decrease in HeLa cells and a decreased binding of nuclear proteins. These base pair exchanges may have an effect on the expression of the enzyme and thereby influence the capacity of certain individuals to metabolize formaldehyde.

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