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PLoS One. 2010 Jun 10;5(6):e11067. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011067.

Genomic features of the human dopamine transporter gene and its potential epigenetic States: implications for phenotypic diversity.

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  • 1Brookhaven National Laboratory, Medical Department, Upton, New York, USA.


Human dopamine transporter gene (DAT1 or SLC6A3) has been associated with various brain-related diseases and behavioral traits and, as such, has been investigated intensely in experimental- and clinical-settings. However, the abundance of research data has not clarified the biological mechanism of DAT regulation; similarly, studies of DAT genotype-phenotype associations yielded inconsistent results. Hence, our understanding of the control of the DAT protein product is incomplete; having this knowledge is critical, since DAT plays the major role in the brain's dopaminergic circuitry. Accordingly, we reevaluated the genomic attributes of the SLC6A3 gene that might confer sensitivity to regulation, hypothesizing that its unique genomic characteristics might facilitate highly dynamic, region-specific DAT expression, so enabling multiple regulatory modes. Our comprehensive bioinformatic analyzes revealed very distinctive genomic characteristics of the SLC6A3, including high inter-individual variability of its sequence (897 SNPs, about 90 repeats and several CNVs spell out all abbreviations in abstract) and pronounced sensitivity to regulation by epigenetic mechanisms, as evident from the GC-bias composition (0.55) of the SLC6A3, and numerous intragenic CpG islands (27 CGIs). We propose that this unique combination of the genomic features and the regulatory attributes enables the differential expression of the DAT1 gene and fulfills seemingly contradictory demands to its regulation; that is, robustness of region-specific expression and functional dynamics.

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