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Addict Biol. 2005 Sep;10(3):275-81.

Allelic association of a dopamine transporter gene polymorphism with antisocial behaviour in heroin-dependent patients.

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Centro Studi Farmaco-tossicodipendenze, Ser.T., AUSL, Parma, Italy.


Polymorphism of a variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) in the 3' untranslated region of exon 15 of the SLC6A3 gene, coding for the dopamine transporter (DAT), was analysed to test whether length variation contributes to differences in the individual susceptibility to aggressive - criminal behaviour and liability to heroin dependence. The repeat number of the DAT polymorphism was assessed in 125 healthy subjects and 104 heroin-dependent subjects (including 52 addicted individuals with violent behaviour and criminal records). There was no significant difference in the frequencies of genotypes and alleles between heroin-dependent subjects and control subjects. On the contrary, there was a significant difference between offenders and non-offenders, p = 0.004 and p = 0.002, respectively, among heroin-dependent subjects. No association was found between DAT polymorphism and history of suicide. Buss - Durkee Hostility Inventory (BDHI) mean total scores were significantly higher in heroin addicts than in controls (p < 0.001) and in antisocial - violent heroin addicts in comparison with addicted individuals without antisocial behaviour (p < 0.005). The regression analysis of BDHI subscales, performed to provide an estimate of the magnitude of any potential effect on the risk of aggressiveness associated with the variants in DAT VNTR, showed that the presence of the 9 - 9 genotype significantly increases the risk of irritability and direct aggressiveness more than six and 10 times with respect to the 9 - 10 genotype. Our findings suggest that the 9-repeat allele of the DAT polymorphism confers increased susceptibility to antisocial - violent behaviour and aggressiveness, rather than drug dependence per se in heroin-dependent males.

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