Alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenase genotypes in Korsakoff syndrome

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2000 Mar;24(3):337-40.


Background: Previous studies have suggested a genetic predisposition to the development of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), a neuropsychiatric syndrome commonly associated with alcoholism; however, little is known about this genetic risk factor.

Methods: To test the hypothesis that altered alcohol or aldehyde regulation is related to the development of WKS, the genetic polymorphisms of aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (ALDH2) and alcohol dehydrogenase-2 (ADH2) were examined in 47 alcoholic subjects with WKS and compared with those of 342 alcoholic subjects without any WKS symptoms and 175 nonalcoholic controls.

Results: Although the frequencies of the ALDH2 genotypes and alleles did not differ significantly between alcoholic subjects with WKS and alcoholics without WKS, the ADH2*1/2*1 genotype and ADH2*1 allele were significantly increased in WKS.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the ADH2*1/2*1 genotype is a risk factor for the development of WKS in alcoholic patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial
  • Alleles
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / etiology
  • Korsakoff Syndrome / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics


  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase
  • ALDH2 protein, human
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial