Puls I, Mohr J, Wrase J, Priller J, Behr J, Kitzrow W, Makris N, Breiter HC, Obermayer K, Heinz A
Biol Psychol 2008 Sep;79(1):126-36
Several genes of the dopaminergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems have been found to be associated with alcohol disease and related intermediate phenotypes. Here, we evaluated genetic variants of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and the metabotropic glutamate receptor 3 (mGluR3) genes in alcohol-dependent patients and their association with volumetric measurements of brain structures. By combined analysis of imaging data and genotyping results, large numbers of variables are produced that overstrain conventional statistical methods based on tests for group differences. Limitations in assessment of epistatic effects and multiple testing problems are encountered. Therefore, we introduce a novel method for detecting associations between a set of genetic markers and phenotypical measurements based on machine learning techniques. Hippocampal volume was found to be associated with epistatic effects of the COMT-mGluR3 genes in alcohol-dependent patients but not in controls. These data are in line with prior studies supporting a role for dopamine-glutamate interaction in modulation of alcohol disease.