Genetic signatures of heroin addiction


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Abstract

Heroin addiction is a complex psychiatric disorder with a chronic course and a high relapse rate, which results from the interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Heroin addiction has a substantial heritability in its etiology; hence, identification of individuals with a high genetic propensity to heroin addiction may help prevent the occurrence and relapse of heroin addiction and its complications. The study aimed to identify a small set of genetic signatures that may reliably predict the individuals with a high genetic propensity to heroin addiction. We first measured the transcript level of 13 genes (RASA1, PRKCB, PDK1, JUN, CEBPG, CD74, CEBPB, AUTS2, ENO2, IMPDH2, HAT1, MBD1, and RGS3) in lymphoblastoid cell lines in a sample of 124 male heroin addicts and 124 male control subjects using real-time quantitative PCR. Seven genes (PRKCB, PDK1, JUN, CEBPG, CEBPB, ENO2, and HAT1) showed significant differential expression between the 2 groups. Further analysis using 3 statistical methods including logistic regression analysis, support vector machine learning analysis, and a computer software BIASLESS revealed that a set of 4 genes (JUN, CEBPB, PRKCB, ENO2, or CEBPG) could predict the diagnosis of heroin addiction with the accuracy rate around 85% in our dataset. Our findings support the idea that it is possible to identify genetic signatures of heroin addiction using a small set of expressed genes. However, the study can only be considered as a proof-of-concept study. As the establishment of lymphoblastoid cell line is a laborious and lengthy process, it would be more practical in clinical settings to identify genetic signatures for heroin addiction directly from peripheral blood cells in the future study.

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