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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (OnlineEarly Articles).
12 February 2007
Linkage Disequilibrium and Association Analysis of α-Synuclein and Alcohol and Drug Dependence in Two American Indian Populations

  • 1Laboratory of Neurogenetics, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland;
  • 2Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida;
  • 3Laboratory of Neurogenetics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, Maryland;
  • 4Yale University School of Medicine, Juneau, Alaska; and
  • 5Center for Human Behavior Studies Inc., Weatherford, Oklahoma.
Reprint requests: Connie J. Mulligan, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, 1376 Mowry Road, Gainesville, FL 32610; Fax: 352-273-8284; E-mail:



α-Synuclein is involved in dopaminergic neurotransmission and has been implicated in a number of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. Recent studies, in humans and in rat and monkey models, have suggested that α-synuclein may play a role in the development and maintenance of certain addictive disorders.


Fifteen single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the α-synuclein gene (SNCA) and 1 upstream microsatellite repeat (NACP-REP1) were assayed in Southwest (SW; n=514) and Plains (n=420) American Indian populations. Patterns of linkage disequilibrium (LD) at SNCA were determined for the 2 populations and compared with Caucasian, African, and Asian populations in the HapMap database ( Assayed alleles and constructed haplotypes in the study populations were tested for association with 4 clinical phenotypes [alcohol dependence, alcohol use disorders, drug dependence, and drug use disorders (lifetime diagnoses)] as well as with 2 symptom count phenotypes (all 18 questions and the 8 questions diagnostic for alcohol dependence).


Patterns of LD at SNCA were similar in both Indian populations and were consistent with the LD structure in other populations as reflected in the HapMap database.

Single allele tests revealed significant associations between 4 SNPs and drug dependence in the SW population and between 2 of those SNPs plus 2 other SNPs and drug dependence in SW males only.

In the Plains population, a significant association was detected only in males between 2 SNPs and alcohol use disorders and between 1 SNP and alcohol dependence.

In the SW population, 1 SNP was marginally significant with the total symptom count.

However, in all cases, the support was modest and disappeared with correction for multiple comparisons. No association was found between constructed haplotypes and any of the phenotypes in either population.


Despite modest support for association between multiple SNCA SNPs and several of the addictive disorders tested in this study, statistical significance disappeared after correction for multiple testing.

Thus, our data do not support a role for a variant in the SNCA gene that contributes to alcohol or drug addiction in the 2 studied American Indian populations.

Future research may focus on variants in the promoter region that could cause the changes in mRNA and protein levels observed in previous studies.