Effect of the Allelic Variant of Alcohol DehydrogenaseADH1B*2on Ethanol Metabolism

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It has been known that ADH1B*2 allele has a protective effect against the development of alcohol dependence. However, the protection mechanism is still unknown. We investigated whether ADH1B gene polymorphism affects ethanol (EtOH) metabolism.


In a parent study, we conducted a randomized crossover trials on 24 healthy male subjects who were selected by genotyping: 12 with ALDH2*1/*1 (active form) and 12 with ALDH2*1/*2 (inactive form). In the present study, the 24 subjects were reclassified into 2 groups of 11 with ADH1B*1/*2 and 13 with ADH1B*2/*2 according to the ADH1B genotypes. Each subject was administered 1 of 3 doses of EtOH (0.25, 0.5, 0.75 g/kg) or a placebo in 4 trials. After the administration of alcohol, blood EtOH and acetaldehyde concentrations were measured 9 times over 4 hours.


In the case of EtOH, the area under the concentration-time curve from 0 to 4 hours (AUC0–4) and the peak blood concentration of EtOH (Cmax) in subjects with ADH1B*2/*2 were significantly higher than those in subjects with ADH1B*1/*2 at all 3 dosages before stratifying by ALDH2 genotype. However, after stratifying by ALDH2 genotype, a statistically significant difference between ADH1B*2/*2 and ADH1B*1/*2 was found only at the 0.5 g/kg dosage regardless of ALDH2 genotype. In the case of acetaldehyde, the AUC0–4 and Cmax of acetaldehyde of ADH1B*2/*2 after administration of 0.25 g/kg alcohol and the AUC0–4 of acetaldehyde of ADH1B*2/*2 at 0.5 g/kg were significantly higher than corresponding values of ADH1B*1/*2 only in the group of ALDH2*1/*2.


Our findings indicate that the blood EtOH concentrations of ADH1B*2/*2 group are higher than those of ADH1B*1/*2 group regardless of ALDH2 genotype, and the blood acetaldehyde concentrations of ADH1B*2/*2 are also higher than those of ADH1B*1/*2 only in the ALDH2*1/*2 group. To our knowledge, this is the first report to demonstrate the association of ADH1B*2 allele with blood EtOH and acetaldehyde levels in humans, and these results suggest that higher blood EtOH and acetaldehyde concentrations in ADH1B*2/*2 may constitute the mechanism of protection against alcoholism by ADH1B*2/*2.

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