Molecular Genetics of Addiction Vulnerability

George R. Uhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Summary: Classical genetic studies document strong complex genetic contributions to abuse of multiple addictive substances, to mnemonic processes that are likely to include those involved in substance dependence, and to the volumes of brain gray matter in regions that are likely to contribute to mnemonic/cognitive and to addictive processes. The working idea that these three heritable phenotypes are likely to share some of the same complex genetic underpinnings is presented. This review contains association-based molecular genetic studies of addiction that largely derive from my laboratory and their fit with linkage data from other laboratories. These combined results now identify many of the loci and genes that contain allelic variants that are likely to provide the heritable components of human addiction vulnerability. These data are also likely to have broad implications for neurotherapeutics. Drugs with potential abuse liabilities are widely used for indications that include pain, anxiety, sleep, seizure, and attentional disorders. There is increasing nonmedical use of these prescribed substances. Increasing information about addiction vulnerability gene variants should help to improve management of risks of dependence in individuals who receive such therapeutics. In addition, since mnemonic components that correlate well with individual differences in brain regional volumes are likely to play major roles in addiction processes, many addiction vulnerability genes are also good candidates to contribute to individual differences in mnemonic processes. Recently elucidation of addiction-associated haplotypes for the "cell adhesion" NrCAM gene illustrate several of these points.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-301
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Association genome scanning
  • cell adhesion molecules
  • haplotypes
  • linkage
  • memory
  • substance dependence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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