Susceptibility locus in neurokinin-1 receptor gene associated with alcohol dependence

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Oct;34(11):2442-9. doi: 10.1038/npp.2009.65. Epub 2009 Jun 24.


Substance P (SP), a neurotransmitter in stress pathways, exerts its effects mainly through the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R). Genetic and pharmacological studies show that binding of ligands to NK1R decreases anxiety-related behaviors, and therefore, self-administration of alcohol in mice and craving for alcohol in humans. As genetic variants may result in differential expression of the receptor through various molecular mechanisms, we examined whether allelic variations in the NK1R gene are associated with alcohol dependence (AD) by genotyping 11 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across NK1R in alcoholic (n=271) and healthy control (n=337) participants of Caucasian descent. The AD was diagnosed using the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition. Associations of the SNPs with AD were assessed at both the individual SNP and haplotype levels. We found that genotype and allele frequencies of rs6715729, a synonymous SNP in exon 1, differed significantly in alcoholics and in controls (p=0.0006; OR (odds ratio)=6.13; 95% CI=4.06, 9.23). Haplotype analyses indicated two risk haplotypes for AD in the 5' end of the gene, formed by the three-SNP combinations rs6715729-rs735668-rs6741029. Taken together, we conclude that polymorphisms of NK1R are significantly associated with the development of AD in Caucasian individuals. Additional studies are needed to replicate these results in other samples and to elucidate the mechanism(s) by which these polymorphisms affect NK1R function in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1 / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1