Associations of the dopamine D4 receptor gene VNTR polymorphism with drug use in adolescent psychiatric inpatients

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Abstract

Background:

The VNTR polymorphism in the Dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) has been associated with differential urge for substances across multiple methodologies ranging from neuroimaging to assessment in the natural environment. It is unclear whether the DRD4 gene is a marker for an underlying propensity for greater urge or whether the DRD4 gene differentially moderates the neuroadaptive effects of extended substance use on urge. Examination of the DRD4 in an adolescent sample may provide evidence of a mechanism of this putative relationship.

Method:

Data from a subset of 77 participants in a larger assessment study characterized adolescents for substance-related behaviors by DRD4 genotype. The psychiatrically admitted adolescents were genotyped for the variable number of tandem repeats polymorphism in the DRD4 gene (L≥7 [n=25], S=<7 [n=52]). Associations of the DRD4 with scores on the SASSI, and ADI were examined as well as selected individual items thought to be most related to the intermediate phenotype of urge.

Results:

The DRD4 gene was not associated with any DSM-IV substance misuse diagnostic classification. Individual items related to urge were also nonsignificantly related to DRD4 status. Carriers of the long variant of the DRD4 polymorphism were more likely to have used hard drugs within the previous 6 months and scored higher on the self-medication subscale of the ADI compared to short variant homozygotes.

Discussion:

Preliminary results provide little evidence for the DRD4 VNTR polymorphism to be related to urge-related phenomena in hospitalized adolescents on a psychiatric inpatient unit. The association of the DRD4 gene with hard drug use may support literature linking this gene to impulsivity. Subscale findings may suggest a role of negative affect in previous DRD4 urge findings.

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