Genome-wide association study of alcohol consumption and genetic overlap with other health-related traits in UK Biobank (N=112 117)

Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;22(10):1376-1384. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.153. Epub 2017 Jul 25.


Alcohol consumption has been linked to over 200 diseases and is responsible for over 5% of the global disease burden. Well-known genetic variants in alcohol metabolizing genes, for example, ALDH2 and ADH1B, are strongly associated with alcohol consumption but have limited impact in European populations where they are found at low frequency. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of self-reported alcohol consumption in 112 117 individuals in the UK Biobank (UKB) sample of white British individuals. We report significant genome-wide associations at 14 loci. These include single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in alcohol metabolizing genes (ADH1B/ADH1C/ADH5) and two loci in KLB, a gene recently associated with alcohol consumption. We also identify SNPs at novel loci including GCKR, CADM2 and FAM69C. Gene-based analyses found significant associations with genes implicated in the neurobiology of substance use (DRD2, PDE4B). GCTA analyses found a significant SNP-based heritability of self-reported alcohol consumption of 13% (se=0.01). Sex-specific analyses found largely overlapping GWAS loci and the genetic correlation (rG) between male and female alcohol consumption was 0.90 (s.e.=0.09, P-value=7.16 × 10-23). Using LD score regression, genetic overlap was found between alcohol consumption and years of schooling (rG=0.18, s.e.=0.03), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (rG=0.28, s.e.=0.05), smoking (rG=0.40, s.e.=0.06) and various anthropometric traits (for example, overweight, rG=-0.19, s.e.=0.05). This study replicates the association between alcohol consumption and alcohol metabolizing genes and KLB, and identifies novel gene associations that should be the focus of future studies investigating the neurobiology of alcohol consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Testing
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Klotho Proteins
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • United Kingdom
  • White People / genetics


  • KLB protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • ADH1B protein, human
  • ADH1C protein, human
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
  • Klotho Proteins