Association of gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptor α2 gene (GABRA2) with alcohol use disorder

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Mar;39(4):907-18. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.291. Epub 2013 Oct 18.


Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in mammalian brain. GABA receptor are involved in a number of complex disorders, including substance abuse. No variants of the commonly studied GABA receptor genes that have been associated with substance dependence have been determined to be functional or pathogenic. To reconcile the conflicting associations with substance dependence traits, we performed a meta-analysis of variants in the GABAA receptor genes (GABRB2, GABRA6, GABRA1, and GABRG2 on chromosome 5q and GABRA2 on chromosome 4p12) using genotype data from 4739 cases of alcohol, opioid, or methamphetamine dependence and 4924 controls. Then, we combined the data from candidate gene association studies in the literature with two alcohol dependence (AD) samples, including 1691 cases and 1712 controls from the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment (SAGE), and 2644 cases and 494 controls from our own study. Using a Bonferroni-corrected threshold of 0.007, we found strong associations between GABRA2 and AD (P=9 × 10(-6) and odds ratio (OR) 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.27 (1.15, 1.4) for rs567926, P=4 × 10(-5) and OR=1.21 (1.1, 1.32) for rs279858), and between GABRG2 and both dependence on alcohol and dependence on heroin (P=0.0005 and OR=1.22 (1.09, 1.37) for rs211014). Significant association was also observed between GABRA6 rs3219151 and AD. The GABRA2 rs279858 association was observed in the SAGE data sets with a combined P of 9 × 10(-6) (OR=1.17 (1.09, 1.26)). When all of these data sets, including our samples, were meta-analyzed, associations of both GABRA2 single-nucleotide polymorphisms remained (for rs567926, P=7 × 10(-5) (OR=1.18 (1.09, 1.29)) in all the studies, and P=8 × 10(-6) (OR=1.25 (1.13, 1.38)) in subjects of European ancestry and for rs279858, P=5 × 10(-6) (OR=1.18 (1.1, 1.26)) in subjects of European ancestry. Findings from this extensive meta-analysis of five GABAA receptor genes and substance abuse support their involvement (with the best evidence for GABRA2) in the pathogenesis of AD. Further replications with larger samples are warranted.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / ethnology
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Black People
  • Computational Biology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics*
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies
  • White People


  • GABRA2 protein, human
  • Receptors, GABA-A