Differential contribution of genetic variation in multiple brain nicotinic cholinergic receptors to nicotine dependence: Recent progress and emerging open questions

L. Greenbaum, B. Lerer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Nicotine dependence (ND), a major public health challenge, is a complex, multifactorial behavior, in which both genetic and environmental factors have a role. Brain nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR)-encoding genes are among the most prominent candidate genes studied in the context of ND, because of their biological relevance as binding sites for nicotine. Until recently, most research on the role of nAChRs in ND has focused on two of these genes (encoding the α4- and Β2-subunits) and not much attention has been paid to the possible contribution of the other nine brain nAChR subunit genes (α2-α3, α5-α7, α9-α10, Β3-Β4) to the pathophysiology and genetics of ND. This situation has changed dramatically in the last 2 years during which intensive research had addressed the issue, mainly from the genetics perspective, and has shown the importance of the CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4 and CHRNA6-CHRNB3 loci in ND-related phenotypes. In this review, we highlight recent findings regarding the contribution of non-α4/Β2-subunit containing nAChRs to ND, based on several lines of evidence: (1) human genetics studies (including linkage analysis, candidate-gene association studies and whole-genome association studies) of several ND-related phenotypes; (2) differential pharmacological and biochemical properties of receptors containing these subunits; (3) evidence from genetically manipulated mice; and (4) the contribution of nAChR genes to ND-related personality traits and neurocognitive profiles. Combining neurobiological genetic and behavioral perspectives, we suggest that genetic susceptibility to ND is not linked to one or two specific nAChR subtype genes but to several. In particular, the α3, α5-6 and Β3-4 nAChR subunit-encoding genes may play a much more pivotal role in the neurobiology and genetics of ND than was appreciated earlier. At the functional level, variants in these subunit genes (most likely regulatory) may have independent as well as interactive contributions to the ND phenotype spectrum. We address methodological challenges in the field, highlight open questions and suggest possible pathways for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)912-945
Number of pages34
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Volume14
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Addiction
  • Cigarettes
  • Nicotine dependence
  • Nicotinic cholinergic receptor genes
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco

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