Genes Associated with Alcohol Dependence

Table describing genes and alleles which have a marked effect alcohol dependence.

Recent advances in genomics have identified a number of genes that either increase or decrease a person's susceptibility to alcohol dependence. Some of the genes in the tables below represent either genes or alleles that have a profound effect on alcohol dependence.

Genes associated with increased risk of alcohol dependence

Gene Function

A review of several linkage and association studies of the DRD2 gene has concluded that there is a robust association of both the DRD2 A1 and A2 alleles not only with an increased liability to alcoholism, but also with an overall increased liability for substance abuse (Noble 1998).

DRD4 Linked to problematic alcohol use, especially in novelty seeking personalities (Luciano et al. 2004). Also linked to increased liability to binge drink, regardless of gender or race (Vaughn et al. 2009).
CREB Linked to anxiety due to alcohol withdrawal, and increased alcohol consumption (Clapp et al. 2008).
GABRA2 Dopamine D2 receptor gene strongly associated with increased alcohol consumption in individuals with this variant (Enoch et al. 2009).
CHRM2 Associated with alcohol dependence, as well as drug dependence (Dick and Agrawal 2008).

Genes associated with decreased risk of alcohol dependence

Gene Function
ADH2 Among several genes encoding alcohol dehydrogenase subunits, polymorphism at the ADH2 gene encoding I2-subunits of this dimeric enzyme has been thought to be possibly important for the ethanol metabolism variation. An "atypical" form of ADH2 with a variant I2 subunit differs from the usual form in its kinetic properties and is found more frequently among the Asian populations (Reich et al. 1999)
ALDH2 This allele may protect individuals from the development of alcoholism, as it causes the drinker to have problems metabolizing alcohol, thus producing facial flushing, light-headedness, palpitations and nausea when alcohol is consumed. This mutation is frequently seen in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean populations (Reich et al. 1999).