Influence of Dopaminergic System Genetic Variation and Lifestyle Factors on Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol Alcohol. 2016 May;51(3):258-67. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agv114. Epub 2015 Oct 7.


Aims: To examine the role of genetic and environmental factors in the pathogenesis of alcohol dependence in a Spanish cohort of women and men.

Methods: We analyzed the relationship between 56 genetic variants in 7 genes associated with the dopaminergic reward pathway and excessive alcohol consumption. The study sample (N = 1533, of which 746 were women) consisted of 653 heavy consumers and 880 very low consumers from the Spanish subcohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped using a customized array. Lifestyle variables were also examined to assess associations between genetic and environmental factors.

Results: No statistically significant differences were found between cases and controls for the allele frequencies in five genes: TH, SLC18A2, DRD1, DRD3 and COMT. Conversely, some alleles of the 12 SNPs from the DRD2 locus and the 5 from the MAOA locus showed significant associations with excessive alcohol consumption. Namely, rs10891556 (DRD2) proved to be the only SNP positively correlated with excessive alcohol consumption in both sexes. DRD2 rs1800497 and rs877138 were significantly associated in men, whereas DRD2 rs17601612 and rs4936271 and MAOA rs5906898 were associated with excessive alcohol consumption in women. A correspondence analysis provided an overall lifestyle profile of excessive drinkers, who were predominantly men who smoked, had large intakes of meat, small intakes of fruit and vegetables, whose jobs did not require high education levels and who engaged in little physical activity.

Conclusions: It has shown the influence of dopaminergic pathway in the genetics of alcohol dependence with differences between men and women and providing a lifestyle profile of excessive drinkers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / etiology*
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alleles
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3 / genetics
  • Reward
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins / genetics


  • DRD1 protein, human
  • DRD2 protein, human
  • DRD3 protein, human
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • SLC18A2 protein, human
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • monoamine oxidase A, human
  • COMT protein, human
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase