Background: The A1 allele of the ANKK1 TaqIA polymorphism (previously reported as located in the D2 dopamine receptor (DRD2) gene) is associated with reduced DRD2 density in the striatum and with clinical disorders, particularly addiction. It was hypothesized that impulsivity represents an endophenotype underlying these associations with the TaqIA and that environmental stress would moderate the strength of the gene-behavior relationship.
Methods: TaqIA genotyping was conducted on 72 healthy young adults who were randomly allocated to either an acute psychosocial stress or relaxation induction condition. Behavioral phenotypes of impulsivity were measured using a card-sorting index of reinforcement sensitivity and computerized response inhibition and delay discounting tasks.
Results: Separate analyses of variance revealed associations between the A1 allele and two laboratory measures of impulsivity. The presence of the TaqIA allele (A1+) was associated with slower card-sorting in the presence of small financial reinforcers, but was overcome in a second administration after either a five-minute rest or psychosocial stress induction. A1+ participants also demonstrated significantly poorer response inhibition and faster response times on a computerized stop inhibition task, independent of acute stress exposure.
Conclusion: These findings indicate the A1 allele is associated with an endophenotype comprising both a "rash impulsive" behavioral style and reinforcement-related learning deficits. These effects are independent of stress.