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The Role of the GABRA2 Polymorphism in Multiplex Alcohol Dependence Families With Minimal Comorbidity: Within-Family Association and Linkage Analyses

Abigail G. Matthews, Eric K. Hoffman, Nicholas Zezza, Scott Stiffler, Shirley Y. Hill

Objective: The genes encoding the gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA-A) receptor have been the focus of several recent studies investigating the genetic etiology of alcohol dependence. Analyses of multilex families found a particular gene, GABRA2, to be highly associated with alcohol dependence, using within-family association tests and other methods. Results were confirmed in three case-control studies. The objective of this study was to investigate the GABRA2 gene in another collection of multiplex families. Method: Analyses were based on phenotypic and genotypic data available for 330 individuals from 65 bigenerational pedigrees with a total of 232 alcohol-dependent subjects. A proband pair of same-sex siblings meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, criteria for alcohol dependence was required for entry of a family into the study. One member of the proband pair was identified while in treatment for alcohol dependence. Linkage and association of GABRA2 and alcohol dependence were evaluated using SIBPAL (a nonparametric linkage package) and both the Pedigree Disequilibrium Test and the Family-Based Association Test, respectively. Results: We find no evidence of a relationship between GABRA2 and alcohol dependence. Linkage analyses exhibited no linkage using affected/affected, affected/unaffected, and unaffected/unaffected sib pairs (all p's < .13). There was no evidence of a within-family association (all p's > .39). Conclusions: Comorbidity may explain why our results differ from those in the literature. The presence of primary drug dependence and/or other psychiatric disorders is minimal in our pedigrees, although several of the other previously published multiplex family analyses exhibit a greater degree of comorbidity. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 68: 625-633, 2007)