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Original research
Diverse types of genomic evidence converge on alcohol use disorder risk genes
  1. Yulin Dai1,
  2. Ruifeng Hu1,
  3. Guangsheng Pei1,
  4. Huiping Zhang2,3,
  5. Zhongming Zhao1,4,
  6. Peilin Jia1
  1. 1 School of Biomedical Science, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, USA
  2. 2 Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3 Department of Medicine (Biomedical Genetics), Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4 Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peilin Jia, School of Biomedical Science, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, USA; Peilin.Jia{at}


Background Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most common forms of substance use disorders with a strong contribution of genetic (50%–60%) and environmental factors. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a number of AUD-associated variants, including those in alcohol metabolism genes. These genetic variants may modulate gene expression, making individuals more susceptible to AUD. A long-term alcohol consumption can also change the transcriptome patterns of subjects via epigenetic modulations.

Methods To explore the interactive effect of genetic and epigenetic factors on AUD, we conducted a secondary analysis by integrating GWAS, CNV, brain transcriptome and DNA methylation data to unravel novel AUD-associated genes/variants. We applied the mega-analysis of OR (MegaOR) method to prioritise AUD candidate genes (AUDgenes).

Results We identified a consensus set of 206 AUDgenes based on the multi-omics data. We demonstrated that these AUDgenes tend to interact with each other more frequent than chance expectation. Functional annotation analysis indicated that these AUDgenes were involved in substance dependence, synaptic transmission, glial cell proliferation and enriched in neuronal and liver cells. We obtained a multidimensional evidence that AUD is a polygenic disorder influenced by both genetic and epigenetic factors as well as the interaction of them.

Conclusion We characterised multidimensional evidence of genetic, epigenetic and transcriptomic data in AUD. We found that 206 AUD associated genes were highly expressed in liver, brain cerebellum, frontal cortex, hippocampus and pituitary. Our studies provides important insights into the molecular mechanism of AUD and potential target genes for AUD treatment.

  • GWAS
  • TWAS
  • integrative study
  • alcohol use disorder
  • epigenetics

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  • Contributors PJ and ZZ planned the study. YD and RH collected the data. YD, PJ, GP and RH performed the analysis. YD and GP plotted the figures. YD, PJ and ZZ wrote the manuscript. PJ and ZZ instructed the study. YD, PJ, ZZ and HP revised the manuscript. YD submitted the study. All authors agreed to the submission of this manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants [R01LM012806].

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All the data used in this manuscript can be obtained from the source described in the manuscript.