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Beyond risk: Prospective effects of GABA Receptor Subunit Alpha-2 (GABRA2) × Positive Peer Involvement on adolescent behavior

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 June 2016

Elisa M. Trucco*
University of Michigan
Sandra Villafuerte
University of Michigan
Margit Burmeister
University of Michigan
Robert A. Zucker
University of Michigan
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Elisa M. Trucco, Center for Children and Families, Florida International University, AHC-1, Room 237, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199; E-mail:


Research on Gene × Environment interactions typically focuses on maladaptive contexts and outcomes. However, the same genetic factors may also impact susceptibility to positive social contexts, leading to adaptive behavior. This paper examines whether the GABA receptor subunit alpha-2 (GABRA2) single nucleotide polymorphism rs279858 moderates the influence of positive peer affiliation on externalizing behavior and various forms of competence. Regions of significance were calculated to determine whether the form of the interaction supported differential susceptibility (increased sensitivity to both low and high positive peer affiliation) or vantage sensitivity (increased sensitivity to high positive peer affiliation). It was hypothesized that those carrying the homozygous minor allele (GG) would be more susceptible to peer effects. A sample (n = 300) of primarily male (69.7%) and White (93.0%) adolescents from the Michigan Longitudinal Study was assessed from ages 12 to 17. There was evidence for prospective Gene × Environment interactions in three of the four models. At low levels of positive peer involvement, those with the GG genotype were rated as having fewer adaptive outcomes, while at high levels they were rated as having greater adaptive outcomes. This supports differential susceptibility. Conceptualizing GABRA2 variants as purely risk factors may be inaccurate. Genetic differences in susceptibility to adaptive environmental exposures warrants further investigation.

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We thank the families participating in the Michigan Longitudinal Study. This research was supported by Grants K08 AA023290 (to E.M.T.), R01 DA027261 (to R.A.Z., M.M.H., and J.K.Z.), and R01 AA007065 (to R.A.Z. and M.M.H.), T32 AA007477 (to R.A.Z. and K.B.) and the Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award T32 DA007267 (to M.G.). The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. Funding was also received from a pilot grant from the University of Michigan MICHR CTSA program, supported in part by the National Center for Research Resources (Grant UL1RR024986), which is now at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (Grant 2UL1TR000433).


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