The genetics of alcohol dependence: Twin and SNP-based heritability, and genome-wide association study based on AUDIT scores

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2015 Dec;168(8):739-48. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32379. Epub 2015 Sep 14.


Alcohol dependence (AD) is among the most common and costly public health problems contributing to morbidity and mortality throughout the world. In this study, we investigate the genetic basis of AD in a Dutch population using data from the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) and the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA). The presence of AD was ascertained via the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) applying cut-offs with good specificity and sensitivity in identifying those at risk for AD. Twin-based heritability of AD-AUDIT was estimated using structural equation modeling of data in 7,694 MZ and DZ twin pairs. Variance in AD-AUDIT explained by all SNPs was estimated with genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA). A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed in 7,842 subjects. GWAS SNP effect concordance analysis was performed between our GWAS and a recent AD GWAS using DSM-IV diagnosis. The twin-based heritability of AD-AUDIT was estimated at 60% (55-69%). GCTA showed that common SNPs jointly capture 33% (SE = 0.12, P = 0.002) of this heritability. In the GWAS, the top hits were positioned within four regions (4q31.1, 2p16.1, 6q25.1, 7p14.1) with the strongest association detected for rs55768019 (P = 7.58 × 10(-7) ). This first GWAS of AD using the AUDIT measure found results consistent with previous genetic studies using DSM diagnosis: concordance in heritability estimates and direction of SNPs effect and overlap with top hits from previous GWAS. Thus, the use of appropriate questionnaires may represent cost-effective strategies to phenotype samples in large-scale biobanks or other population-based datasets.

Keywords: GWAS; cohol dependence; heritability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Twins / genetics*