American scientists have identified 29 gene variants responsible for predisposition to alcohol dependence. Nineteen of them were discovered for the first time, and many have common connections with mental disorders, behavior, and cognitive abilities. The results are published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
American biologists and doctors from Yale University and their colleagues from other universities conducted a genomic analysis of more than 435 thousand people for the search for genes that determine a person’s predisposition to alcohol dependence and related mental disorders. Scientists wanted to understand whether it is possible to determine by genes whose high-risk alcohol consumption will lead to disorders and dependence.
Researchers have identified 29 such genetic risk factors, of which ten were previously known, and 19 were identified for the first time.
“The new data is three times the number of known genetic risk loci associated with problematic alcohol use,” said Joel Gelernter, professor of psychiatry and professor of genetics and neuroscience at Yale University, in a press release.
The study included an analysis of the genomes of people of European descent located in four separate biobanks. The authors searched for common loci — the locations of specific genes in sequence in people with alcoholism or alcohol-related illnesses. Separately, scientists analyzed information about genetic risk factors for a number of mental disorders.
Combining the data from two genetic studies and their joint analysis showed that there are genetic links between problem drinking and disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as behavior and learning ability. Using the technique of Mendelian randomization – a mathematical method that biologists use to process genetic information – scientists have determined how related characters influence each other.
“This gives us the opportunity to understand the causal link between problematic signs of alcohol use, such as psychiatric conditions, risk behaviors, and cognitive abilities,” says lead author of the study, Hang Zhou, a psychiatric researcher at Yale University.
Scientists also found that the risk factors they discovered are inherited not only at the brain level, but also in the conservative regulatory regions of the genome, which are responsible for certain biological functions.
The authors believe that the genetic factors they identified for alcoholism and related medical and behavioral problems will more accurately assess the risk of drinking for each individual.