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Original research
Diverse types of genomic evidence converge on alcohol use disorder risk genes


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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