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Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;125:561-71. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-62619-6.00032-X.

Genetics of alcoholism.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA.


Multiple lines of evidence strongly indicate that genetic factors contribute to the risk for alcohol use disorders (AUD). There is substantial heterogeneity in AUD, which complicates studies seeking to identify specific genetic factors. To identify these genetic effects, several different alcohol-related phenotypes have been analyzed, including diagnosis and quantitative measures related to AUDs. Study designs have used candidate gene analyses, genetic linkage studies, genomewide association studies (GWAS), and analyses of rare variants. Two genes that encode enzymes of alcohol metabolism have the strongest effect on AUD: aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 and alcohol dehydrogenase 1B each has strongly protective variants that reduce risk, with odds ratios approximately 0.2-0.4. A number of other genes important in AUD have been identified and replicated, including GABRA2 and alcohol dehydrogenases 1B and 4. GWAS have identified additional candidates. Rare variants are likely also to play a role; studies of these are just beginning. A multifaceted approach to gene identification, targeting both rare and common variations and assembling much larger datasets for meta-analyses, is critical for identifying the key genes and pathways important in AUD.


alcohol dependence; endophenotypes; genetic risk factors; genomewide association study

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