KCNJ6 variants modulate reward-related brain processes and impact executive functions in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2020 Jul;183(5):247-257. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32734. Epub 2019 May 17.


KCNJ6, encoding a potassium channel subunit, regulates the excitability of dopaminergic neurons and is expressed in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-relevant brain regions. As a potential ADHD risk gene, KCNJ6, therefore, may contribute to the endophenotypic variation of the disorder. The impact of two SNPs, rs7275707 and rs6517442, both located in the transcriptional control region of KCNJ6, on reporter gene expression was explored in cultured cells. The KCNJ6 variants were then tested for association with ADHD and personality traits in a family-based sample (165 affected children) and an adult case-control sample (450 patients, 426 controls). Furthermore, the genotypic influence on performance in an n-back task and a cued continuous performance test (cCPT) was investigated by electroencephalography recordings. Finally, rs6517442 function was assessed by a reward anticipation paradigm using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Different haplotypes of rs7275707 and rs6517442 significantly influenced KCNJ6 gene expression proving their functional relevance on the molecular level. In the family-based children sample rs7275707 was associated with ADHD (p = .038). Moreover, rs7275707 showed association with the personality trait of Reward Dependence (p = .031). In the ADHD group, both rs7275707 and rs6517442 influenced the Go-centroid location in the cCPT and the N200 amplitude in the n-back task. Furthermore, ventral striatal activation was impacted by rs6517442 during reward anticipation. Our data indicate that functional variants of KCNJ6 influence brain activity during reward-related and executive processes supporting the view of a differential, age-dependent modulatory impact of dopamine-related brain processes in ADHD risk.

Keywords: ADHD; KCNJ6; dopamine; executive functions; reward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / genetics*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Electroencephalography
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels / genetics*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mutagenesis
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels
  • KCNJ6 protein, human
  • Dopamine