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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1994 Jun;18(3):640-3.

Low frequency of the ADH2*2 allele among Atayal natives of Taiwan with alcohol use disorders.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis.


Genetic variation at two polymorphic alcohol dehydrogenase loci, ADH2 and ADH3, and at the polymorphic mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase locus, ALDH2, may influence the risk of developing alcoholism by modulating the rate of elimination of ethanol and the rate of formation and elimination of acetaldehyde. Populations differ in allele frequencies at these loci. We determined the genotypes at all three of these loci in Atayal natives of Taiwan. The frequencies of ADH2*2, ADH3*1, and ALDH2*1 alleles (0.91, 0.99, and 0.95, respectively) were significantly higher among the Atayal than among a predominantly Han Chinese population from Taiwan. Among the Atayal, the group with alcohol use disorders (alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse) had a significantly lower frequency of the ADH2*2 allele (0.82) than those without alcohol use disorders (0.91). The ADH2*2 allele encodes the beta 2 subunit; isozymes containing beta 2 subunits oxidize alcohol faster in vitro than the beta 1 beta 1 isozyme encoded by ADH2*1. Thus, the simplest explanation for these data is that individuals with a beta 2 isozymes have a higher rate of ethanol oxidation, which is a deterrent to alcohol abuse and dependence in some individuals. The Atayal with alcohol use disorders also had a lower frequency of ALDH2*2 than the controls; this allele is known to be responsible for the alcohol-flush reaction among Asians, and thereby deters drinking.

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