Implications of gene-drug interactions in smoking cessation for improving the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases

Mutat Res. 2009 Jul 10;667(1-2):44-57. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2008.10.015. Epub 2008 Nov 5.


Tobacco smoking continues to be the major preventable cause of premature morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Recent research strongly suggests that genetic background is associated with several aspects of smoking (e.g. initiation, maintenance, cessation, number of cigarettes smoked, indicators of nicotine dependence (ND) and nicotine withdrawal). Variations in two broad classes of genes have been shown to influence smoking: (1) genes that may influence the response to nicotine (e.g. nicotine metabolism, nicotinic receptors) and (2) genes that may predispose to addictive behaviour via their effects on key neurotransmitter pathways (e.g. dopamine, serotonin and opioid). Since these genetic variants might also influence the response to smoking cessation pharmacotherapies, smoking cessation rates might be increased by determining which treatment would be most effective based on the smoker's genetic background. This is expected to result in a more efficient use of smoking cessation therapies, increased cessation rates and ultimately, in reduced deaths from smoking. Until now, most research on the influence of genetic variation on smoking cessation pharmacotherapy has been directed to the two most widely accepted and licensed forms of smoking cessation therapy: nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and the antidepressant bupropion. Overall, genotypes associated with increased dopamine availability seem to predict a better response to bupropion, while smokers with genotypes associated with reduced dopamine levels probably achieve better quit rates with NRT. A decreased metabolism for the drug used (e.g. bupropion or NRT), results in increased cessation rates as well. Furthermore, smokers with reduced dopaminergic and nicotinic receptor activity variants may experience greater benefit from nicotine spray, while smokers with increased activity variants in the opioid receptor may have greater success with transdermal patches. Thus it seems that genetic information may give directions in determining which treatment would be most effective for an individual smoker. However, several challenges will still have to be overcome before genetically tailored smoking cessation therapy can be implemented in standard clinical practice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / metabolism
  • Pharmacogenetics*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / genetics*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy


  • Serotonin
  • Nicotine
  • Dopamine