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Alcohol metabolizing enzymes, such as the alcohol dehydrogenases and the aldehyde dehydrogenases, regulate the levels of acetaldehyde in the blood and play an important role in the development and maintenance of alcohol addiction. Recent genome-wide systematic searches found associations between a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs1789891, risk allele: A, protective allele: C) in the alcohol dehydrogenase gene cluster and the risk of alcohol dependence. The current study investigated the effect of this single nucleotide polymorphism on alcohol consumption, craving for alcohol, relapse risk and brain gray matter volume.
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Reduction in brain volume, especially gray matter volume, has been shown to be one of the many deleterious effects of prolonged alcohol consumption. High variance in the degree of gray matter tissue shrinkage among alcohol-dependent individuals and a previous neuroimaging genetics report suggest the involvement of environmental and/or genetic factors, such as superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2). Identification of such underlying factors will help in the clinical management of alcohol dependence.

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Alcoholism is associated with gray matter volume deficits in frontal and other brain regions. Whether persistent brain volume deficits in abstinence are predictive of subsequent time to alcohol relapse has not been established. The authors measured gray matter volumes in healthy volunteers and in a sample of treatment-engaged, alcohol-dependent patients after 1 month of abstinence and assessed whether smaller frontal gray matter volume was predictive of subsequent alcohol relapse outcomes.

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This study had three objectives: (1) to assess the relationship between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1789891 in the alcohol dehydrogenase gene cluster and alcohol dependence and affective disorders; (2) to assess the differences in the Regulative Theory of Temperament (RTT) traits between an alcohol dependent group, an affective disorders group, and a healthy group; and (3) to assess the relationship between rs1789891 and temperament traits in a healthy group, taking into account the interaction of genotype and sex. The SNP rs1789891 was genotyped in a group of 194 alcohol dependent men, aged 21 to 71 years; 137 patients with affective disorders, including 51 males and 86 females, aged 19 to 85 years; and a group of 207 healthy individuals, including 89 males and 118 females, aged 18 to 71 years. Temperament traits (briskness, perseveration, sensory sensitivity, emotional reactivity, endurance, and activity) were assessed in all groups using the Formal Characteristics of Behaviour-Temperament Inventory.

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The way in which genetic risk mediates the development of craving in alcohol dependence is still relatively unknown. The authors sought to clarify the extent to which alcohol craving could be predicted by a relevant polymorphism in the promoter region of the gene encoding the 5-HT transporter (5-HTTLPR). A sample of 101 alcohol-dependent patients admitted for alcohol treatment was recruited for the study.

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