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J Hum Genet. 2012 Oct;57(10):670-5. doi: 10.1038/jhg.2012.98. Epub 2012 Aug 23.

Hypermethylation of OPRM1 promoter region in European Americans with alcohol dependence.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


The μ-opioid receptor mediates rewarding effects of alcohol and illicit drugs. We hypothesized that altered DNA methylation in the μ-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) might influence the vulnerability to alcohol dependence (AD). Genomic DNA was extracted from the peripheral blood of 125 European Americans with AD and 69 screened European American controls. Methylation levels of 16 CpGs in the OPRM1 promoter region were examined by bisulfite sequencing analysis. A multivariate analysis of covariance was conducted to analyze AD-associated methylation changes in the OPRM1 promoter region, using days of intoxication in the past 30 days, sex, age, ancestry proportion and childhood adversity (CA) as covariates. Three CpGs (80, 71, and 10 bp upstream of the OPRM1 translation start site) were more highly methylated in AD cases than in controls (CpG-80: P=0.033; CpG-71: P=0.004; CpG-10: P=0.008). Although these sites were not significant after correction for multiple comparisons, the overall methylation level of the 16 CpGs was significantly higher in AD cases (13.6%) than in controls (10.6%) (P=0.049). Sex and CA did not significantly influence OPRM1 promoter methylation levels. Our findings suggest that OPRM1 promoter hypermethylation may increase the risk for AD and other substance dependence disorders.

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