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Mol Psychiatry. 2004 Oct;9(10):916-31.

Human cannabinoid receptor 1: 5' exons, candidate regulatory regions, polymorphisms, haplotypes and association with polysubstance abuse.

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Molecular Neurobiology Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse-IRP/NIH, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


A number of lines of evidence make the gene that encodes the G-protein-coupled CB1/Cnr1 receptor a strong candidate to harbor variants that might contribute to individual differences in human addiction vulnerability. The CB1/Cnr1 receptor is the major brain site at which cannabinoid marijuana constituents are psychoactive as well as the principal brain receptor for endogenous anandamide ligands. It is densely expressed in brain circuits likely to be important for both the reward and mnemonic processes important for addiction. Altered drug effects in CB1/Cnr1 knockout mice and initial association studies also make variants at the CB1/Cnr1 locus candidates for roles in human vulnerabilities to addictions. However, many features of this gene's structure, regulation and variation remain poorly defined. This poor definition has limited the ability of previous association studies to adequately sample variation at this locus. We now report improved definition of the human CB1/Cnr1 locus and its variants. Novel exons 1-3, splice variant and candidate promoter region sequences add to the richness of the CB1/Cnr1 locus. Candidate promoter region sequences confer reporter gene expression in cells that express CB1/Cnr1. Common polymorphisms reveal patterns of linkage disequilibrium in European- and in African-American individuals. A 5' CB1/Cnr1 "TAG" haplotype displays significant allelic frequency differences between substance abusers and controls in European-American, African-American and Japanese samples. Post-mortem brain samples of heterozygous individuals contain less mRNA transcribed from the TAG alleles than from other CB1/Cnr1 haplotypes. CB1/ Cnr1 genomic variation thus appears to play roles in human addiction vulnerability.

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