The DRD2 TaqIA polymorphism associated with changed midbrain volumes in healthy individuals

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Abstract

The humanDRD2gene is located on chromosome 11q22-q23 and contains one specific functional polymorphism called TaqIA, which characteristically presents two alleles referred to as A1 and A2. Evidence indicates that the A1 allele impacts brain dopaminergic function and may confer an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease. However, possible morphological changes underlying such genetic variant remain to be clarified. The aim of this study was to provide anin vivodemonstration of changes in brain structures associated with the TaqIA polymorphism of theDRD2gene. Optimized voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was applied to high-resolution MR brain images of 70 healthy controls divided into two groups according to their DRD2 genotype (A1/A2,n= 15; A2/A2,n= 55). Compared with individuals' homozygous for the A2 allele, the A1 carriers had significantly smaller areas of a specific part of the midbrain, encompassing the substantia nigra bilaterally. Our findings showed an association of the DRD2 TaqIA polymorphism with the changed volumes of a specific subcortical region strongly involved in the dopaminergic system.

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