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Alcohol use disorders are common conditions that have enormous social and economic consequences. Genome-wide association analyses were performed to identify genetic variants associated with a proxy measure of alcohol consumption and alcohol misuse and to explore the shared genetic basis between these measures and other substance use, psychiatric, and behavioral traits.
This study used quantitative measures from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) from two population-based cohorts of European ancestry (UK Biobank [N=121,604] and 23andMe [N=20,328]) and performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis. Two additional GWAS analyses were performed, a GWAS for AUDIT scores on items 1–3, which focus on consumption (AUDIT-C), and for scores on items 4–10, which focus on the problematic consequences of drinking (AUDIT-P).
The GWAS meta-analysis of AUDIT total score identified 10 associated risk loci. Novel associations localized to genes including JCAD and SLC39A13; this study also replicated previously identified signals in the genes ADH1B, ADH1C, KLB, and GCKR. The dimensions of AUDIT showed positive genetic correlations with alcohol consumption (rg=0.76–0.92) and DSM-IV alcohol dependence (rg=0.33–0.63). AUDIT-P and AUDIT-C scores showed significantly different patterns of association across a number of traits, including psychiatric disorders. AUDIT-P score was significantly positively genetically correlated with schizophrenia (rg=0.22), major depressive disorder (rg=0.26), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (rg=0.23), whereas AUDIT-C score was significantly negatively genetically correlated with major depressive disorder (rg=−0.24) and ADHD (rg=−0.10). This study also used the AUDIT data in the UK Biobank to identify thresholds for dichotomizing AUDIT total score that optimize genetic correlations with DSM-IV alcohol dependence. Coding individuals with AUDIT total scores ≤4 as control subjects and those with scores ≥12 as case subjects produced a significant high genetic correlation with DSM-IV alcohol dependence (rg=0.82) while retaining most subjects.
AUDIT scores ascertained in population-based cohorts can be used to explore the genetic basis of both alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders.
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