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Alcohol Res Health. 2007;30(1):14-7.

Variations in ADH and ALDH in Southwest California Indians.

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Department of Molecular and Integrative Neuroscience, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA.


Native Americans as a group have the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths of all ethnicities in the United States; however, it remains unclear how and why a greater proportion of individuals in some Native American communities develop alcohol-related problems and alcohol use disorders (AUDs). One potential factor that can influence responses to alcohol are variations in alcohol-metabolizing enzymes. Researchers have analyzed the frequencies of variants in the alcohol-metabolizing enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) in some Native American populations. So far the studies have yielded no evidence that an ALDH2 variant, which has shown protective effects in other populations, is found in either American Indians or Alaska Natives. A variant of the ALDH1 enzyme that is encoded by the ALDH1A1*2 allele, however, was found in a small proportion of a group of Southwest California Indians and had a protective effect against alcoholism in that population. Furthermore, a variant of the ADH1B enzyme that is encoded by the ADH1B*3 allele was found in a similar proportion of Southwest California Indians and also was associated with a protective effect. However, these findings do not explain the high prevalence of alcoholism in the tribes investigated.

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