Genotypes of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes in Japanese with alcohol liver diseases: a strong association of the usual Caucasian-type aldehyde dehydrogenase gene (ALDH1(2)) with the disease

Am J Hum Genet. 1988 Nov;43(5):744-8.


Genetic polymorphisms of two major alcohol-metabolizing enzymes-i.e., one of the class I alcohol dehydrogenase isozymes (ADH2) and the mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2)-exist in Japanese and other Orientals but not in Caucasians. Liver ADH activity of about 90% of Orientals is much higher than that of most Caucasians, while approximately 50% of Orientals lack the ALDH2 activity. The genetic differences have been implicated in the high incidence of alcohol sensitivity observed in Orientals. We determined, by means of hybridization of genomic DNA samples with allele-specific synthetic oligonucleotide probes, genotypes of the ADH2 and the ALDH2 loci of Japanese with alcoholic liver diseases and of control subjects. No significant difference between the patient and control groups was found in the ADH2 genotypes. A remarkable genetic difference between the two groups was found in the ALDH2 locus. The frequency of the typical (Caucasian-type) ALDH1(2) gene was found to be .65 and that of the atypical (Oriental type) ALDH2(2) gene was .35 in the controls, while these were .93 and .07, respectively, in the patients. Thus, most (20 of 23) of the Japanese patients were homozygous Caucasian type ALDH1(2)/ALDH1(2), only three were heterozygous ALDH1(2)/ALDH2(2), and none of the patients were homozygous Oriental type ALDH2(2)/ALDH2(2). The results indicate that Japanese with the atypical ALDH2(2) allele are at a much lower risk in developing the alcoholic liver diseases than are those with homozygous, usual (Caucasian-type) ALDH1(2)/ALDH1(2), presumably owing to their sensitivity to alcohol intoxication.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Asian People / genetics*
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Probes
  • Ethanol / metabolism*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / enzymology
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / genetics*
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • White People / genetics


  • DNA Probes
  • Isoenzymes
  • Ethanol
  • DNA
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase