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The role of the serotonin transporter gene in cigarette smoking.

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  • 1Cancer Genetics Program, Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20007-4104, USA.


Data from twin studies have suggested that cigarette smoking has a significant heritable component. The serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT) is a plausible candidate gene for smoking predisposition because of its association with psychological traits relevant to smoking behavior. The present investigation evaluated the associations of smoking practices and smoking cessation with a common polymorphism in the upstream regulatory region of 5-HTT that is manifested as either an inserted (long) variant or a deleted (short) variant. The short variant of the polymorphism is associated with reduced transcription of the gene promoter and diminished uptake. A case-control study design (268 smokers and 230 controls) was used to evaluate the associations of 5-HTT genotype with smoking status. Case series analysis of smokers was used to evaluate the role of 5-HTT in age at smoking initiation, previous quitting history, current smoking rate, and 12-month quit rate following a minimal-contact smoking cessation program. There were no significant differences in the distribution of 5-HTT genotypes in smokers as compared with nonsmokers in either Caucasians or African Americans, nor was the 5-HTT genotype associated with the smoking outcome variables. However, the results did reveal significant racial differences in the distribution of 5-HTT genotypes: Caucasians were significantly more likely to carry the short variant of the 5-HTT gene than were African Americans (P = 0.005). These findings suggest that the 5-HTT gene may not play a significant role in cigarette smoking practices.

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