Increased prevalence of the Taq I A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene (DRD2) in obesity with comorbid substance use disorder: a preliminary report

Pharmacogenetics. 1996 Aug;6(4):297-305. doi: 10.1097/00008571-199608000-00003.


In order to investigate the prevalence of the Taq I A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene (DRD2) in obesity with and without comorbid substance use disorder, a total of 40 patients, from an outpatient neuropsychiatric clinic in Princeton, New Jersey, were genotyped for presence or absence of the Taq I DRD2 A1 allele. The primary inclusion criterion for 40 obese subjects was a body mass index (BMI) equal to or over 25 (uncharacterized); 11 obese subjects had severe substance use disorder; 20 controls had a BMI below 25; and, 33 substance use disorder (less severe) patients had a BMI below 25. The data were statistically compared with three different sets of controls divided into three separate groups (Group I, n = 20; Group II, n = 286; Group III, n = 714). They differed according to screening criteria (drug, alcohol, nicotine abuse/dependence, BMI below 25 and other related behaviours including parental history of alcoholism or drug abuse and DSM IV, Axis I and Axis II diagnoses). Groups II and III were population controls derived from the literature. The prevalence of the Taq I A1D2 dopamine receptor (DRD2) alleles was determined in 40 Caucasian obese females and males. In this sample with a mean BMI of 32.35 +/- 1.02, the A1 allele of the DRD2 gene was present in 52.5% of these obese subjects. Furthermore, we found that in the 23 obese subjects possessing comorbid substance use disorder, the prevalence of the DRD2 A1 allele significantly increased compared to the 17 obese subjects without comorbid substance use disorder. The DRD2 A1 allele was present in 73.9% of the obese subjects with comorbid substance use disorder compared to 23.5% in obese subjects without comorbid substance use disorder. Moreover, when we assessed severity of substance usage (alcoholism, cocaine dependence, etc.) increasing severity of drug use increased the prevalence of the Taq I DRD2 A1 allele; where 66.67% (8/12) of less severe probands possessed the A1 allele compared to 82% (9/11) of the most severe cases. Linear trend analyses showed that increasing use of drugs was positively and significantly associated with A1 allelic classification (p < 0.00001). These preliminary data suggest that the presence of the DRD2 A1 allele confirms increased risk not only for obesity, but also for other related addictive behaviours (previously referred to as the Reward Deficiency Syndrome) and that a BMI over 25 by itself (without characterization of macroselection or comorbid substance use disorders) is not a sufficient criterion for association with the DRD2 A1 allele.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Comorbidity
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / genetics*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*


  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific
  • TCGA-specific type II deoxyribonucleases