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Gene variation makes alcoholism less likely in some survivors of sexual abuse
Date:2/2/2010

as suggested that when the environmental risk factors occur during key periods of brain development, genes and environment working together can increase the likelihood an individual will become alcohol dependent. Child sexual abuse is one of the environmental stressors that can interact with genes to significantly increase the risk for alcohol problems.

But the researchers report in the January issue of Addiction Biology that people with a particular pattern of genetic markers seem to be protected against alcohol problems, even if they were sexually abused as children.

Those who were protected carry a set of genetic variations that scientists call the H2 haplotype. Similar to a blood type, a haplotype is more than just a single genetic mutation. It is a normally occurring pattern of gene variants that are statistically associated with one another so that when scientists find a few genetic markers, they can successfully predict what other genetic variations will occur within a particular region of DNA.

"We looked at how genes and environment interact," says Elliot C. Nelson, M.D., lead author of the study. "Our analysis included both sexual abuse and information about the DNA region that carries the H2 haplotype. People who carry that genetic pattern were protected against the risks for alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence typically associated with sexual abuse."

Other sexual abuse victims in the study had the alternate genetic pattern known as the H1 haplotype. Those individuals had three times the risk of heavy drinking and alcohol dependence as those who had not been sexually abused.

"They drank much more alcohol and had a significantly greater risk for problems," says Nelson, an associate professor of psychiatry. "But abuse victims with the H2 haplotype seemed to be completely protected against those risks."

Nelson's team studied data from more than 1,100 people in 476 Australian families who p
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Contact: Diane Duke Williams
williamsdia@wustl.edu
314-286-0111
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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