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The importance of including developmental and environmental measures in genetic studies of human pathology is widely acknowledged, but few empirical studies have been published. Barriers include the need for longitudinal studies that cover relevant developmental stages and for samples large enough to deal with the challenge of testing gene–environment–development interaction. A solution to some of these problems is to bring together existing data sets that have the necessary characteristics. As part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded Gene-Environment-Development Initiative, our goal is to identify exactly which genes, which environments, and which developmental transitions together predict the development of drug use and misuse. Four data sets were used of which common characteristics include (1) general population samples, including males and females; (2) repeated measures across adolescence and young adulthood; (3) assessment of nicotine, alcohol, and cannabis use and addiction; (4) measures of family and environmental risk; and (5) consent for genotyping DNA from blood or saliva. After quality controls, 2,962 individuals provided over 15,000 total observations. In the first gene–environment analyses, of alcohol misuse and stressful life events, some significant gene–environment and gene–development effects were identified. We conclude that in some circumstances, already collected data sets can be combined for gene–environment and gene–development analyses. This greatly reduces the cost and time needed for this type of research. However, care must be taken to ensure careful matching across studies and variables.
The influence of five monoamine candidate genes on depressive symptom trajectories in adolescence and young adulthood were examined in the Add Health genetic sample. Results indicated that, for all respondents, carriers of the dopamine receptor D4 5-repeat allele were characterized by distinct depressive symptom trajectories across adolescence and early adulthood. Similarly, for males, individuals with the monoamine oxidase A 3.5-repeat allele exhibited unique depressive symptom trajectories. Specifically, the trajectories of those with the dopamine receptor D4 5-repeat allele were characterized by rising levels in the transition to adulthood, while their peers were experiencing a normative drop in depressive symptom frequency. Conversely, males with the monoamine oxidase A 3.5-repeat allele were shown to experience increased distress in late adolescence. An empirical method for examining a wide array of allelic combinations was employed, and false discovery rate methods were used to control the risk of false positives due to multiple testing. Special attention was given to thoroughly interrogate the robustness of the putative genetic effects. These results demonstrate the value of combining dynamic developmental perspectives with statistical genetic methods to optimize the search for genetic influences on psychopathology across the life course.
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