Mutation in a human gene confers nicotine dependence

Scientists from an EU-supported consortium have discovered that a mutation in a human gene confers nicotine dependence. They have shown that a particular variant of a nicotine-receptor gene impacts smoking behaviour and hence confers a 30% increase in risk of lung cancer and a 20% increase in risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a common and debilitating constriction of the arteries to the legs. Roughly half of the people of European descent carry at least one copy of this genetic variant, which does not influence smoking initiation, but makes it more difficult to quit.

The results stem out from the European project GENADDICT (Genomics, mechanisms and treatment of addiction), which is supported by 8.1 million euros' worth of funding from the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research and by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Results have been included in the scientific journal Nature, published online last 2 April 2008.

The project started on January 1st 2005 and it is an Integrated Project in the Priority [2.1.3]. Studying the brain and combating diseases of the nervous system of the framework programme. The aim of the integrated project is to discover:

  • New candidate genes that are involved in addiction using human and mouse approaches.
  • New genetic mechanisms that are involved in addiction.
  • New molecular targets for the treatment of addiction.

The project consortium members are: