The heritable risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD) is expressed partly through alterations in subjective alcohol response. In this study, we investigated the effects of 2 AUD-risk-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms, GABRA2 rs279858 and GRIK1 rs2832407, on the subjective response to alcohol administered intravenously to healthy social drinkers in a laboratory setting.
In total, 93 self-identified European American social drinkers underwent 3 blinded laboratory sessions in which they received intravenous infusions of ethanol at 3 target blood alcohol levels (0.00 mg%, 40 mg%, and 100 mg%) using a "clamp" procedure. The self-reported Biphasic Alcohol Effects Scale (BAES) stimulation and sedation subscales were the primary outcome measures. We examined the effects of these 2 genetic variants on subjective response to alcohol.
For the BAES stimulation subscale scores, adjusting for age, baseline scores, and time effects, individuals with 2 copies of the GABRA2 rs279858 C "risk" allele for AUD exhibited the greatest stimulant responses to high-dose alcohol compared to the other risk allele counts (dose-by-allele count interaction effect, p = 0.001, post hoc contrast for C-allele, p = 0.012). For the BAES sedation subscale scores, adjusting for the same covariates, we detected a dose-by-allele count interaction effect (p = 0.0044) such that subjects with 2 copies of the GRIK1 C "risk" allele reported the greatest sedative response to the higher alcohol dose.
This study suggests that gene variants contributing to the risk for AUD may alter features of the alcohol dose-response relationship in specific ways. GABRA2 rs279858*C enhances stimulant responses to higher levels of alcohol, while the GRIK1 rs2832407*C-allele increases sedative responses. In summary, GRIK1 and GABRA2 variants have distinct effects on the dose-related subjective response to intravenous alcohol in humans.