Alterations in DNA-methylation of the dopamine-receptor 2 gene are associated with abstinence and health care utilization in individuals with a lifetime history of pathologic gambling

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Several studies point towards a role for dopaminergic circuits in the pathophysiology of problematic gambling behavior. The aim of the present study was to investigate alterations of DNA methylation in the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2)-gene in participants with pathologic gambling behavior.


The study was part of a large epidemiological study on pathologic gambling in Germany. DNA methylation of the DRD2-gene was analyzed from oral mucosa using next generation bisulfite sequencing. The final sample included 77 participants. The study showed significantly lower methylation levels of the DRD2-gene in abstinent patients over the last 12 or 30 months compared to non-abstinent participants. Furthermore, participants without any treatment utilization regarding gambling behavior showed higher DRD2-gene methylation levels compared to treatment-seeking participants.


DNA-methylation patterns in the DRD2-gene were altered in respect to abstinence over a 12-month or a 30-month period and to treatment utilization with higher methylation levels in non-abstinent and participants without treatment-seeking behavior. These results point towards a pathophysiologic relevance of altered DRD2-expression due to changes of DNA methylation in pathologic gambling behavior.

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