Sunday, 28 November, 2021
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Neurogenetic determinants and mechanisms of nicotine, tobacco addiction

A review of research has found a large gap in accounting for the heritability of key phenotypes involved in each stage of addiction to smoked tobacco, to be published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.


The single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States is tobacco use. Decades of study show that the risk of becoming addicted to smoked cigarettes varies greatly amongst individuals and is heritable, yet environmental factors are also important contributors.

In this review, we consider a wide range of methodologies and key published reports that have defined the inheritance of different stages of nicotine-dependent smoking behavior, including preference, initiation, regular use, withdrawal and dependence, as well as cessation and relapse. Major findings from both animal and human studies are discussed.

Current findings converge primarily on the role of nicotinic cholinergic receptor subunits, although other neurotransmitter systems as well as nicotine metabolism enzymes are implicated. Various stages of nicotine addiction may share common genetic mechanisms, yet several lines of evidence indicate that each stage also has its own unique genetic determinants.

tudies on the heritability of smoking initiation demonstrate substantial evidence for gene-environment interaction, although the precise molecular genetic mechanism(s) remains unknown.

Considering the relatively few genes identified so far and the small to modest fraction of the variance in risk for a particular smoking phenotype (e.g., smoking initiation in late adolescence) attributable to these genes, a large gap remains to be filled in order to account for the heritability of key phenotypes involved in each stage of addiction to smoked tobacco.

Looking forward, new research strategies involving both human and animal studies will produce the fundamental genetic insights that are the foundation for the precision medical treatment of individuals addicted to smoked tobacco.


Professor BM Sharp and Hao Chen, Department of Pharmacology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

[link url=""]Abstract in the European Journal of Neuroscience[/link]

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