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Genome-wide association study of Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) scores in 20,328 research participants of European ancestry

By Sandra Sanchez-Roige, Pierre Fontanillas, Sarah L. Elson, the 23 and Me Research Team, Joshua C. Gray, Harriet de Wit, Lea K. Davis, James MacKillop, Abraham Palmer

Posted 15 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/147397 (published DOI: 10.1111/adb.12574)

Genetic factors contribute to the risk for developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). In collaboration with the genetics company 23andMe, Inc., we performed a genome-wide association (GWAS) study of the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT), an instrument designed to screen for alcohol misuse over the past year. Our final sample consisted of 20,328 research participants of European ancestry (55.3% females; mean age = 53.8, SD = 16.1) who reported ever using alcohol. Our results showed that the “chip-heritability” of AUDIT score, when treated as a continuous phenotype, was 12%. No loci reached genome-wide significance. The gene ADH1C, which has been previously implicated in AUD, was among our most significant associations (4.4 x 10-7; rs141973904). We also detected a suggestive association on chromosome 1 (2.1 x 10-7; rs182344113) near the gene KCNJ9, which has been implicated in mouse models of high ethanol drinking. Using LD score regression, we identified positive genetic correlations between AUDIT score and AUD, high alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking. We also observed an unexpected positive genetic correlation between AUDIT and educational attainment, and additional unexpected negative correlations with BMI/obesity and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We conclude that conducting a genetic study using data from a population unselected for AUD and responding to an online questionnaire may represent a cost-effective strategy for elucidating the etiology of AUD.

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