Genes involved in stress response and alcohol use among high-risk African American youth

Subst Abus. 2016 Jul-Sep;37(3):450-458. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2015.1134756.


Background: Genetic and environmental factors influence substance use behaviors in youth. One of the known environmental risk factors is exposure to life stressors. The aim of this project is to study the interaction between NR3C1 and CRHBP, genes thought to be involved in stress pathways, exposure to stressful life events, and adolescent alcohol use/misuse.

Methods: The sample included 541 African American individuals (ages 13-18) from the Genes, Environment, and Neighborhood Initiative, a subset of the Mobile Youth Survey sample from whom DNA and more extensive phenotypic data were collected. Participants were selected from high-poverty neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama, with potential exposure to a variety of extreme life stressors.

Results: A measure of stressful life events was significantly predictive of alcohol use/misuse. In addition, this association was significantly dependent upon the number of putative risk variants at rs1715749, a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in CRHBP (P ≤ .006). There was no significant interaction between NR3C1 and stressful life events with respect to alcohol use/misuse, after taking into account multiple testing.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that CRHBP variants are potentially relevant for adolescent alcohol use/misuse among African American youth populations being reared within the context of stressful life events and warrant replication.

Keywords: Adolescents; alcohol; stressful life events.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / genetics*
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / psychology
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Poverty / psychology
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Underage Drinking / psychology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • NR3C1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • corticotropin releasing factor-binding protein