Critical genetic link found between human taste differences and nicotine dependence

October 14, 2008

Could an aversion to bitter substances or an overall heightened sense of taste help protect some people from becoming addicted to nicotine? That's what researchers at UVA have found using an innovative new method they've developed to analyze the interactions of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Their findings one day may be key in identifying people at risk for nicotine dependence.

In a study published in the October 10, 2008 issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics, University of Virginia Health System researchers report that two interacting genes related to bitter taste sensitivity, TAS2R16 and TAS2R38, play an important role in a person's development of nicotine dependence and smoking behavior. Researchers found that people with higher taste sensitivity aren't as likely to become dependant on nicotine as people with decreased taste sensitivity.

"This new knowledge is an important tool in predicting whether a person is likely to become a smoker or not," says lead investigator Ming Li, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences who specializes in addiction and genetics research.

It's long been known that a person's ability to taste bitter substances plays a crucial role in the rejection of potentially toxic foods, but taste sensitivity varies widely among individuals and between ethnic groups. Previous studies have suggested a link between so-called taster status and nicotine dependence, but genetic evidence underlying such a link has been lacking.

"Until now, the method for analyzing gene to gene or gene to environment interactions could only handle one type of trait without correcting for other important covariants, such as age or gender, but we've developed a novel algorithm and corresponding computer program that can handle all types of genetic data and correct for any number of variants – gender, age, race, and so on," explains Dr. Li, who with his team studied genetic data of more than 2,000 participants from more than 600 families of African American or European American origin.

"This new approach significantly expands our ability to study gene-gene or gene-environmental interactions. It provides a far better analytical tool for every scientist out there doing genetics work," says Dr. Li.

"We're laying an important foundation for addressing nicotine dependence. First we need to establish a comprehensive understanding of how all associated genes work together to affect smoking behaviors and addiction; that's what we're doing now. Once we have that base of knowledge, we can move on to develop effective prevention and treatment for nicotine dependence."

Source: University of Virginia

Explore further: Investigators compare effects of nicotine with and without menthol on brain and behavior

Related Stories

Investigators compare effects of nicotine with and without menthol on brain and behavior

November 16, 2017
A new study from UMass Medical School researchers at the Center for Comparative Neuroimaging explores the link between mentholated tobacco and nicotine addiction. They found that menthol administered with nicotine alters ...

Interdisciplinary research team studies whether using e-cigarettes while pregnant causes craniofacial birth defects

March 22, 2017
E-cigarettes are touted as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but they could pose alarming risks to children in utero, Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have found.

Study explains how the brain remembers pleasure and its implications for addiction

August 25, 2013
Key details of the way nerve cells in the brain remember pleasure are revealed in a study by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience. New details of the molecular ...

Binge drinking dangerous for young adults

February 19, 2016
Having an occasional drink is fine, but "binge" drinking is a known health hazard and now high blood pressure may need to be added to the list of possible consequences. Young adults in their twenties who regularly binge drink ...

Put that in your e-cigarette and smoke it, or should you?

February 11, 2016
Smoking cigarettes dramatically increases a person's risk for a host of diseases, and there's an assumption that electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are not harmful because users do not inhale smoke full of known carcinogens. ...

Recommended for you

Distinct human mutations can alter the effect of medicine

December 18, 2017
Every person has a unique DNA sequence. Now, researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge have tried to quantify what these differences in the genome mean in the context ...

Association found between abnormal cerebral connectivity and variability in the PPARG gene in developing preterm infants

December 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with King's College London and the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre, both in the U.K., has found what they describe as a strong association between ...

Large genetic study links tendency to undervalue future rewards with ADHD, obesity

December 11, 2017
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found a genetic signature for delay discounting—the tendency to undervalue future rewards—that overlaps with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder ...

Gene variants identified that may influence sexual orientation in men and boys

December 8, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from several institutions in the U.S. and one each from Australia and the U.K. has found two gene variants that appear to be more prevalent in gay men than straight men, adding ...

Disease caused by reduction of most abundant cellular protein identified

December 8, 2017
An international team of scientists and doctors has identified a new disease that results in low levels of a common protein found inside our cells.

Study finds genetic mutation causes 'vicious cycle' in most common form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

December 8, 2017
University of Michigan-led research brings scientists one step closer to understanding the development of neurodegenerative disorders such as ALS.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.