Cue-induced craving for addictive substances has long been known to contribute to the problem of persistent addiction in humans. Research in animals over the past decade has solidly established the central role of dopamine in cue-induced craving for addictive substances, including nicotine. Analogous studies in humans, however, are lacking, especially among African-American smokers, who have lower quit rates than Caucasian smokers. Based on the animal literature, the study's objective was to test the hypothesis that smokers carrying specific variants in dopamine-related genes previously associated with risk for addictive behaviors would exhibit heightened levels of cigarette craving following laboratory exposure to cues. To this end, cigarette craving was induced in healthy African-American smokers (n = 88) through laboratory exposure to smoking cues. Smokers carrying either the DRD2 (D2 dopamine receptor gene) TaqI A1 RFLP or the SLC6A3 (dopamine transporter gene) 9-repeat VNTR polymorphisms had stronger cue-induced cravings than noncarriers (Ps <0.05 and 0.01, respectively). Consistent with the separate biological pathways involved (receptor, transporter), carriers of both polymorphisms had markedly higher craving responses compared to those with neither (P<0.0006), reflecting additive effects. Findings provide support for the role of dopamine in cue-induced craving in humans, and suggest a possible genetic risk factor for persistent smoking behavior in African-American smokers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience