A gene implicated in schizophrenia risk is also associated with risk for cannabis dependence

October 11, 2012

A paper by Shizhong Han and colleagues in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry implicates a new gene in the risk for cannabis dependence. This gene, NRG1, codes for the ErbB4 receptor, a protein implicated in synaptic development and function.

The researchers set out to investigate for cannabis dependence, as research has already shown that it has a strong .

To do this, they employed a multi-stage design using from African American and European American families. In the first stage, a linkage analysis, the strongest signal was identified in African Americans on chromosome 8p21. Then using a genome-wide association study dataset, they identified one genetic variant at NRG1 that showed consistent evidence for association in both African Americans and European Americans. Finally, they replicated the association of that same variant in an independent sample of African-Americans.

All together, the findings suggest that NRG1 may be a susceptibility gene for cannabis dependence.

An interesting feature of this paper is that these findings may also suggest a link between the genetics of schizophrenia and the genetics of cannabis dependence. NRG1 emerged into public awareness after a series of genetic studies implicated it in the heritable risk for schizophrenia. Subsequent studies in post-mortem also suggested that the regulation of NRG1 was altered in the brains of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Thus, the current findings may help to explain the already established link between cannabis use and the risk for developing schizophrenia. A number of epidemiologic studies have attributed the association of cannabis use and schizophrenia to the effects of cannabis on the brain rather than a common genetic link between these two conditions.

"The current data provide a potentially important insight into the heritable risk for schizophrenia and raise the possibility that there are some common genetic contributions to these two disorders," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of .

However, further research will be necessary to further confirm the role that NRG1 plays in cannabis dependence and the potential link between cannabis use and psychosis.

Explore further: Study shows how cannabis use during adolescence affects brain regions associated with schizophrenia

More information: The article is "Linkage Analysis Followed by Association Show NRG1 Associated with Cannabis Dependence in African Americans" by Shizhong Han, Bao-Zhu Yang, Henry R. Kranzler, David Oslin, Raymond Anton, Lindsay A. Farrer, and Joel Gelernter (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.02.038). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 72, Issue 8 (October 15, 2012)

Related Stories

Study shows how cannabis use during adolescence affects brain regions associated with schizophrenia

May 8, 2012
New research from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) published in Nature’s Neuropsychopharmacology has shown physical changes to exist in specific brain areas implicated in schizophrenia following the use ...

GABA deficits disturb endocannabinoid system

January 24, 2012
Changes in the endocannabinoid system may have important implications for psychiatric and addiction disorders. This brain system is responsible for making substances that have effects on brain function which resemble those ...

Recommended for you

New approach to studying chromosomes' centers may reveal link to Down syndrome and more

November 20, 2017
Some scientists call it the "final frontier" of our DNA—even though it lies at the center of every X-shaped chromosome in nearly every one of our cells.

Genome editing enhances T-cells for cancer immunotherapy

November 20, 2017
Researchers at Cardiff University have found a way to boost the cancer-destroying ability of the immune system's T-cells, offering new hope in the fight against a wide range of cancers.

A math concept from the engineering world points to a way of making massive transcriptome studies more efficient

November 17, 2017
To most people, data compression refers to shrinking existing data—say from a song or picture's raw digital recording—by removing some data, but not so much as to render it unrecognizable (think MP3 or JPEG files). Now, ...

US scientists try first gene editing in the body

November 15, 2017
Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside the body in a bold attempt to permanently change a person's DNA to try to cure a disease.

Genetic mutation in extended Amish family in Indiana protects against aging and increases longevity (Update)

November 15, 2017
The first genetic mutation that appears to protect against multiple aspects of biological aging in humans has been discovered in an extended family of Old Order Amish living in the vicinity of Berne, Indiana, report Northwestern ...

Genetic variant prompts cells to store fat, fueling obesity

November 13, 2017
Obesity is often attributed to a simple equation: People are eating too much and exercising too little. But evidence is growing that at least some of the weight gain that plagues modern humans is predetermined. New research ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Roland
not rated yet Oct 11, 2012
I'd like to see similar research regarding nicotine, as schizophrenics tend to be heavy tobacco smokers too. Ditto for alcohol. People I've known who were heavy users of any of these tended to be heavy users of all of them, i.e. "addictive personality" types.

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.