Genetic clues to the molecular basis of tobacco addiction and progress towards personalized therapy

Trends Mol Med. 2001 Feb;7(2):70-6. doi: 10.1016/s1471-4914(01)01915-3.


The molecular processes that underlie addiction are beginning to unfold. Genetically determined variations in dopaminergic neurotransmission predispose to nicotine dependence. In addition, tobacco use is likely to be governed by the rate at which smokers metabolize nicotine. Functional polymorphisms in CYTOCHROME P450 monooxygenases that metabolize nicotine have now been defined and it should soon be possible to identify fast nicotine metabolizers by DNA analysis. Here, we review the key neurotransmitter receptors and metabolic enzymes implicated in tobacco dependence. We explore the potential benefits of classifying smokers according to the molecular aetiology of their habit. One major benefit will be in planning effective strategies for smoking cessation. Methods of typing for alleles related to smoking behavior that might be suitable for use in clinical practice in the future will also be discussed

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational
  • Smoking*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*


  • DNA
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Dopamine