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Alcohol use is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. We examined the interactive effects between genome-wide polygenic risk scores for alcohol use (alc-PRS) and social support in relation to alcohol use among European American (EA) and African American (AA) adults across sex and developmental stages (emerging adulthood, young adulthood, and middle adulthood). Data were drawn from 4,011 EA and 1,274 AA adults from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism who were between ages 18–65 and had ever used alcohol. Participants completed the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism and provided saliva or blood samples for genotyping. Results indicated that social support from friends, but not family, moderated the association between alc-PRS and alcohol use among EAs and AAs (only in middle adulthood for AAs); alc-PRS was associated with higher levels of alcohol use when friend support was low, but not when friend support was high. Associations were similar across sex but differed across developmental stages. Findings support the important role of social support from friends in buffering genetic risk for alcohol use among EA and AA adults and highlight the need to consider developmental changes in the role of social support in relation to alcohol use.
Researchers have identified genetic and neural risk factors for externalizing behaviors. However, it has not yet been determined if genetic liability is conferred in part through associations with more proximal neurophysiological risk markers.
Participants from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism, a large, family-based study of alcohol use disorders were genotyped and polygenic scores for externalizing (EXT PGS) were calculated. Associations with target P3 amplitude from a visual oddball task (P3) and broad endorsement of externalizing behaviors (indexed via self-report of alcohol and cannabis use, and antisocial behavior) were assessed in participants of European (EA; N = 2851) and African ancestry (AA; N = 1402). Analyses were also stratified by age (adolescents, age 12–17 and young adults, age 18–32).
The EXT PGS was significantly associated with higher levels of externalizing behaviors among EA adolescents and young adults as well as AA young adults. P3 was inversely associated with externalizing behaviors among EA young adults. EXT PGS was not significantly associated with P3 amplitude and therefore, there was no evidence that P3 amplitude indirectly accounted for the association between EXT PGS and externalizing behaviors.
Both the EXT PGS and P3 amplitude were significantly associated with externalizing behaviors among EA young adults. However, these associations with externalizing behaviors appear to be independent of each other, suggesting that they may index different facets of externalizing.
The purpose of this study was to examine possible pathways by which genetic risk associated with externalizing is transmitted in families. We used molecular data to disentangle the genetic and environmental pathways contributing to adolescent externalizing behavior in a sample of 1,111 adolescents (50% female; 719 European and 392 African ancestry) and their parents from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. We found evidence for genetic nurture such that parental externalizing polygenic scores were associated with adolescent externalizing behavior, over and above the effect of adolescents’ own externalizing polygenic scores. Mediation analysis indicated that parental externalizing psychopathology partly explained the effect of parental genotype on children’s externalizing behavior. We also found evidence for evocative gene-environment correlation, whereby adolescent externalizing polygenic scores were associated with lower parent–child communication, less parent–child closeness, and lower parental knowledge, controlling for parental genotype. These effects were observed among participants of European ancestry but not African ancestry, likely due to the limited predictive power of polygenic scores across ancestral background. These results demonstrate that in addition to genetic transmission, genes influence offspring behavior through the influence of parental genotypes on their children’s environmental experiences, and the role of children’s genotypes in shaping parent–child relationships.
Externalizing behavior in early adolescence is associated with alcohol use in adolescence and early adulthood and these behaviors often emerge as part of a developmental sequence. This pattern can be the result of heterotypic continuity, in which different behaviors emerge over time based on an underlying shared etiology. In particular, there is largely a shared genetic etiology underlying externalizing and substance use behaviors. We examined whether polygenic risk for alcohol use disorder predicted (1) externalizing behavior in early adolescence and alcohol use in adolescence in the Early Steps Multisite sample and (2) externalizing behavior in adolescence and alcohol use in early adulthood in the Project Alliance 1 (PAL1) sample. We examined associations separately for African Americans and European Americans. When examining European Americans in the Early Steps sample, greater polygenic risk was associated with externalizing behavior in early adolescence. In European Americans in PAL1, we found greater polygenic risk was associated with alcohol use in early adulthood. Effects were largely absent in African Americans in both samples. Results imply that genetic predisposition for alcohol use disorder may increase risk for externalizing and alcohol use as these behaviors emerge developmentally.
We examined the associations between the developmental timing of interpersonal trauma exposure (IPT) and three indicators of involvement in and quality of romantic relationships in emerging adulthood: relationship status, relationship satisfaction, and partner alcohol use. We further examined whether these associations varied in a sex-specific manner. In a sample of emerging adult college students (N = 12,358; 61.5% female) assessed longitudinally across the college years, we found precollege IPT increased the likelihood of being in a relationship, while college-onset IPT decreased the likelihood. Precollege and college-onset IPT predicted lower relationship satisfaction, and college-onset IPT predicted higher partner alcohol use. There was no evidence that associations between IPT and relationship characteristics varied in a sex-specific manner. Findings indicate that IPT exposure, and the developmental timing of IPT, may affect college students’ relationship status. Findings also suggest that IPT affects their ability to form satisfying relationships with prosocial partners.
Many studies demonstrate that marriage protects against risky alcohol use and moderates genetic influences on alcohol outcomes; however, previous work has not considered these effects from a developmental perspective or in high-risk individuals. These represent important gaps, as it cannot be assumed that marriage has uniform effects across development or in high-risk samples. We took a longitudinal developmental approach to examine whether marital status was associated with heavy episodic drinking (HED), and whether marital status moderated polygenic influences on HED. Our sample included 937 individuals (53.25% female) from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism who reported their HED and marital status biennially between the ages of 21 and 25. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) were derived from a genome-wide association study of alcohol consumption. Marital status was not associated with HED; however, we observed pathogenic gene-by-environment effects that changed across young adulthood. Among those who married young (age 21), individuals with higher PRS reported more HED; however, these effects decayed over time. The same pattern was found in supplementary analyses using parental history of alcohol use disorder as the index of genetic liability. Our findings indicate that early marriage may exacerbate risk for those with higher polygenic load.
Alcohol and other substance use problems are common, and the efficacy of current prevention and intervention programs is limited. Genetics may contribute to differential effectiveness of psychosocial prevention and intervention programs. This paper reviews gene-by-intervention (G×I) studies of alcohol and other substance use, and implications for integrating genetics into prevention science. Systematic review yielded 17 studies for inclusion. Most studies focused on youth substance prevention, alcohol was the most common outcome, and measures of genotype were heterogeneous. All studies reported at least one significant G×I interaction. We discuss these findings in the context of the history and current state of genetics, and provide recommendations for future G×I research. These include the integration of genome-wide polygenic scores into prevention studies, broad outcome measurement, recruitment of underrepresented populations, testing mediators of G×I effects, and addressing ethical implications. Integrating genetic research into prevention science, and training researchers to work fluidly across these fields, will enhance our ability to determine the best intervention for each individual across development. With growing public interest in obtaining personalized genetic information, we anticipate that the integration of genetics and prevention science will become increasingly important as we move into the era of precision medicine.
Studies suggest that alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders have distinct genetic backgrounds.
We examined whether polygenic risk scores (PRS) for consumption and problem subscales of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C, AUDIT-P) in the UK Biobank (UKB; N = 121 630) correlate with alcohol outcomes in four independent samples: an ascertained cohort, the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA; N = 6850), and population-based cohorts: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC; N = 5911), Generation Scotland (GS; N = 17 461), and an independent subset of UKB (N = 245 947). Regression models and survival analyses tested whether the PRS were associated with the alcohol-related outcomes.
In COGA, AUDIT-P PRS was associated with alcohol dependence, AUD symptom count, maximum drinks (R2 = 0.47–0.68%, p = 2.0 × 10−8–1.0 × 10−10), and increased likelihood of onset of alcohol dependence (hazard ratio = 1.15, p = 4.7 × 10−8); AUDIT-C PRS was not an independent predictor of any phenotype. In ALSPAC, the AUDIT-C PRS was associated with alcohol dependence (R2 = 0.96%, p = 4.8 × 10−6). In GS, AUDIT-C PRS was a better predictor of weekly alcohol use (R2 = 0.27%, p = 5.5 × 10−11), while AUDIT-P PRS was more associated with problem drinking (R2 = 0.40%, p = 9.0 × 10−7). Lastly, AUDIT-P PRS was associated with ICD-based alcohol-related disorders in the UKB subset (R2 = 0.18%, p < 2.0 × 10−16).
AUDIT-P PRS was associated with a range of alcohol-related phenotypes across population-based and ascertained cohorts, while AUDIT-C PRS showed less utility in the ascertained cohort. We show that AUDIT-P is genetically correlated with both use and misuse and demonstrate the influence of ascertainment schemes on PRS analyses.
This review offers an update on research conducted with FinnTwin12 (FT12), the youngest of the three Finnish Twin Cohorts. FT12 was designed as a two-stage study. In the first stage, we conducted multiwave questionnaire research enrolling all eligible twins born in Finland during 1983–1987 along with their biological parents. In stage 2, we intensively studied a subset of these twins with in-school assessments at age 12 and semistructured poly-diagnostic interviews at age 14. At baseline, parents of intensively studied twins were administered the adult version of the interview. Laboratory studies with repeat interviews, neuropsychological tests, and collection of DNA were made of intensively studied twins during follow-up in early adulthood. The basic aim of the FT12 study design was to obtain information on individual, familial and school/neighborhood risks for substance use/abuse prior to the onset of regular tobacco and alcohol use and then track trajectories of use and abuse and their consequences into adulthood. But the longitudinal assessments were not narrowly limited to this basic aim, and with multiwave, multirater assessments from ages 11 to 12, the study has created a richly informative data set for analyses of gene–environment interactions of both candidate genes and genomewide measures with measured risk-relevant environments. Because 25 years have elapsed since the start of the study, we are planning a fifth-wave follow-up assessment.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that genetic and environmental factors interact to influence alcohol problems. Yet prior research has primarily focused on samples of European descent and little is known about gene–environment interactions in relation to alcohol problems in non-European populations. In this study, we examined whether and how genetic risk for alcohol problems and peer deviance and interpersonal traumatic events independently and interactively influence trajectories of alcohol use disorder symptoms in a sample of African American students across the college years (N = 1,119; Mage = 18.44 years). Data were drawn from the Spit for Science study where participants completed multiple online surveys throughout college and provided a saliva sample for genotyping. Multilevel growth curve analyses indicated that alcohol dependence genome-wide polygenic risk scores did not predict trajectory of alcohol use disorder symptoms, while family history of alcohol problems was associated with alcohol use disorder symptoms at the start of college but not with the rate of change in symptoms over time. Peer deviance and interpersonal traumatic events were associated with more alcohol use disorder symptoms across college years. Neither alcohol dependence genome-wide polygenic risk scores nor family history of alcohol problems moderated the effects of these environmental risk factors on alcohol use disorder symptoms. Our findings indicated that peer deviance and experience of interpersonal traumatic events are salient risk factors that elevate risk for alcohol problems among African American college students. Family history of alcohol problems could be a useful indicator of genetic risk for alcohol problems. Gene identification efforts with much larger samples of African descent are needed to better characterize genetic risk for alcohol use disorders, in order to better understand gene–environment interaction processes in this understudied population.
Genetic predispositions play an important role in the development of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Understanding the mechanisms through which genetic risk unfolds to influence these developmental outcomes is critical for developing prevention and intervention efforts, capturing key elements of Irv's research agenda and scientific legacy. In this study, we examined the role of parenting and personality in mediating the effect of genetic risk on adolescents’ major depressive disorder and conduct disorder symptoms. Longitudinal data were drawn from a sample of 709 European American adolescents and their mothers from the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism. Results from multivariate path analysis indicated that adolescents’ depressive symptoms genome-wide polygenic scores (DS_GPS) predicted lower parental knowledge, which in turn was associated with more subsequent major depressive disorder and conduct disorder symptoms. Adolescents’ DS_GPS also had indirect effects on these outcomes via personality, with a mediating effect via agreeableness but not via other dimensions of personality. Findings revealed that the pattern of associations was similar across adolescent gender. Our findings emphasize the important role of evocative gene–environment correlation processes and intermediate phenotypes in the pathways of risk from genetic predispositions to complex adolescent outcomes.
One of Irving I. Gottesman's many contributions to behavior genetics, and part of his enduring legacy, was his introduction of the term ‘endophenotype’ to the field of psychiatry. Gottesman argued that focusing on endophenotypes, rather than complex heterogeneous clinical diagnoses, could help elucidate disease etiology. Although a different strategy for gene identification ultimately proved successful (that of amassing extremely large sample sizes in order to overcome the ‘noise’ of heterogeneity and have sufficient power to find genes of very small effect), the endophenotype concept continues to make a meaningful contribution to the field. The endophenotype concept forced the field to move beyond a simple disease model of finding genes ‘for’ psychiatric outcomes, and reminded us that genes are quite distal from complex behavioral outcomes and disorders. Endophenotypes called our attention to the steps along that pathway. In that process, the concept of endophenotypes evolved and expanded to include discussion of the role that other intermediary traits and psychological processes play in the development and genetic etiology of psychiatric and substance use disorders. As large-scale consortia continues to identify genes and generate genome-wide polygenic scores that are associated with behavioral outcomes, the next important step will be to characterize the pathways and mechanisms by which genetic risk unfolds. This essential step of mapping risk from genes to behavior is an evolution that follows naturally from the endophenotype concept, and could ultimately translate into improved prevention and intervention for individuals who are pre-disposed to mental health challenges.
Early maturation, indexed by pubertal development (PD), has been associated with earlier initiation and greater frequency of adolescent substance use, but this relationship may be biased by confounding factors and effects that change across development. Using a population-based Finnish twin sample (N = 3,632 individuals), we conducted twin modeling and multilevel structural equation modeling of the relationship between PD and substance use at ages 12–22. Shared environmental factors contributed to early PD and heavier substance use for females. Biological father absence was associated with early PD for boys but not girls, and did not account for the relationship between PD and substance use. The association between early PD and heavier substance use was partially due to between-family confounds, although early PD appeared to qualitatively alter long-term trajectories for some substances (nicotine), but not others (alcohol). Mediation by peer and parental factors did not explain this relationship within families. However, higher peer substance use and lower parental monitoring were themselves associated with heavier substance use, strengthening the existing evidence for these factors as targets for prevention/intervention efforts. Early maturation was not supported as a robust determinant of alcohol use trajectories in adolescence and young adulthood, but may require longer term follow-up. Subtle effects of early PD on nicotine and illicit drug use trajectories throughout adolescence and adulthood merit further investigation.
Placental vascular anastomoses in twins lead to a shared circulation and may subsequently enable the development of severe complications such as twin–twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) and twin anemia–polycythemia sequence (TAPS). The presence of vascular anastomoses has frequently and systematically been studied in monochorionic (MC) placentas, but only rarely in dichorionic (DC) placentas. The aim of this study was to compare the prevalence of vascular anastomoses and evaluate the sharing discordance in MC and DC placentas. All consecutive placentas of MC and DC twins delivered at the Leiden University Medical Center (the Netherlands) and Medical University of Warsaw (Poland) from 2012 to 2015 were routinely injected with colored dye and included in the study. We excluded twin pregnancies treated with fetoscopic laser surgery. A total of 258 placentas were analyzed in this study, including 134 MC placentas and 124 DC placentas. Vascular anastomoses were present in 99% (133/134) of MC placentas and 0% of DC placentas (p < .01). Placental share discordance between MC twins was significantly larger compared to DC twins, 19.8 (interquartile range [IQR] 8.1–33.3) and 10.8 (IQR 6.2–19.0), respectively (p < .01). Vascular anastomoses associated complications occurred in 16% (22/134) MC twins. Our findings show that vascular anastomoses are almost ubiquitous in MC placentas, but non-existent in DC placentas. In addition, unequal placental sharing appears to be more common in MC than in DC placentas.
The purpose of this study was to address two methodological issues that have called into question whether previously reported gene–environment interaction (GxE) effects for adolescent alcohol use are ‘real’. These issues are (1) the potential correlation between the environmental moderator and the outcome across twins and (2) non-linear transformations of the behavioral outcome. Three environments that have been previously studied (peer deviance, parental knowledge, and potentially stressful life events) were examined here. For each moderator (peer deviance, parental knowledge, and potentially stressful life events), a series of models was fit to both a raw and transformed measure of monthly adolescent alcohol use in a sample that included 825 dizygotic (DZ) and 803 monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs. The results showed that the moderating effect of peer deviance was robust to transformation, and that although the significance of moderating effects of parental knowledge and potentially stressful life events were dependent on the scale of the adolescent alcohol use outcome, the overall results were consistent across transformation. In addition, the findings did not vary across statistical models. The consistency of the peer deviance results and the shift of the parental knowledge and potentially stressful life events results between trending and significant, shed some light on why previous findings for certain moderators have been inconsistent and emphasize the importance of considering both methodological issues and previous findings when conducting and interpreting GxE analyses.
Aim: In this study, we introduce the first twin study in Turkey, focusing on smoking behavior, and laying the foundation to register all twins born in Turkey for research purposes. Using Turkish twins will contribute to our understanding of health problems in the context of cultural differences. Materials and methods: We assessed 309 twin pairs (339 males and 279 females) aged between 15 and 45 years living in the Kırıkkale and Ankara regions of Turkey, and administered a health and lifestyle interview that included questions about smoking status and smoking history. We analyzed the data using descriptive statistics, t-tests, chi-square tests, and bivariate and multivariate clustered logistic regression. In addition, we fit bivariate Structural Equation Models (SEM) to determine contributions of latent genetic and environmental factors to smoking outcomes in this sample. Results: One hundred seventy-eight participants (28.8%) were identified as smokers, smoking every day for a month or longer, of whom 79.2% were males and 20.8% were females. Mean values for number of cigarettes per day and the Fagerstrom Test of Nicotine Dependence (FTND; Fagerstrom, 1978) score were higher in males than in females, and age of onset was earlier in males. There was a significant positive correlation between the FTND score and number of cigarettes smoked per day, and a significant negative correlation between both variables and age at onset of smoking. Our study showed that gender, presence of a smoking twin in the family, age, alcohol use, marital status, daily sports activities, and feeling moody all played a significant role in smoking behavior among twins. The twin analysis suggested that 79.5% of the liability to FTND was influenced by genetic factors and 20.5% by unique environment, while familial resemblance for smoking initiation was best explained by common environmental factors. Conclusions: Marked differences in the prevalence of smoking behavior in men versus women were observed for the Turkish population. Genetic analyses showed that common environmental factors primarily contributed to smoking initiation, while genetic factors explained a greater proportion of variance in liability to nicotine dependence. Our study shows higher heritability estimate of the FTND scores and higher shared environmental influence on smoking initiation for both males and females than reported in previous studies.
In order to further understand why depressive symptoms are associated with negative goal appraisals, the present study examined the genetic and environmental correlations and interactions between depressive symptoms and career-related goal appraisals. A total of 1,240 Finnish twins aged 21–26 years completed a questionnaire containing items on the appraisal of their career goals along five dimensions: importance, progress, effort, strain, and self-efficacy. In the same questionnaire, the 10-item General Behavior Inventory assessed depressive symptoms. Structural equation modeling was used to evaluate the genetic and environmental correlations and gene–environment interactions between the career-goal appraisals and depressive symptoms. Associations were identified, and were attributed to environmental factors. Of the career-related goal appraisals, the shared environmental component was of a higher magnitude for the dimension of strain among the depressed compared with non-depressed subjects. The results indicate that the interplay between depressive symptoms and negative career-related goal appraisals is significantly affected by environmental factors, and thus possibly susceptible to targeted interventions.