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Am J Hum Genet. 1980 Jan;32(1):8-15.

Liver alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase in the Japanese: isozyme variation and its possible role in alcohol intoxication.


Forty autopsy livers from Japanese individuals were studied concerning alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) isozymes using electrophoretic and enzyme assay methods. A remarkably high frequency (85%) was found for the atypical ADH phenotype. The gene frequencies of ADH22 and ADH32 were .625 and .05, respectively. The usual ALDH phenotype showed two major isozyme bands, a faster migrating (low Km for acetaldehyde) and a slower migrating isozyme (high Km for acetaldehyde). Fifty-two percent of the specimens had an unusual phenotype of ALDH, which showed only the slower migrating isozyme. The usual phenotype was inhibited about 20%--30% by disulfiram and the unusual type up to 90%. Such a high incidence in the Japanese of the unusual phenotype, which lacks in the low Km isozyme, suggests that the initial intoxicating symptoms after alcohol drinking in these subjects might be due to delayed oxidation of acetaldehyde rather than its higher-than-normal production by typical or atypical ADH.

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