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Behav Brain Res. 2008 Nov 3;193(1):1-16. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.05.006. Epub 2008 May 16.

Genetic variability in nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and nicotine addiction: converging evidence from human and animal research.

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Department of Psychology, Weiss Hall, Neuroscience Program, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, United States.


Tobacco smoking is a leading preventable cause of death in the United States and produces a major health and economic burden. Although the majority of smokers want to quit, few are successful. These data highlight the need for additional research into the neurobiology of tobacco dependence. Addiction to nicotine, the main psychoactive component of tobacco, is influenced by multiple factors that include individual differences in genetic makeup. Twin studies have demonstrated that genetic factors can influence vulnerability to nicotine addiction, and subsequent research has identified genes that may alter sensitivity to nicotine. In humans, genome-wide and candidate gene association studies have demonstrated that genes encoding nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) proteins are associated with multiple smoking phenotypes. Similarly, research in mice has provided evidence that naturally occurring variability in nAChR genes is associated with changes in nicotine sensitivity. Furthermore, the use of genetic knockout mice has allowed researchers to determine the nAChR genes that mediate the effects of nicotine, whereas research with knockin mice has demonstrated that changes to nAChR genes can dramatically alter nicotine sensitivity. This review will examine the genetic factors that alter susceptibility to nicotine addiction, with an emphasis on the genes that encode nAChR proteins.

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