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The etiology of DSM-5 alcohol use disorder: Evidence of shared and non-shared additive genetic effects



Alcoholism is a multifactorial disorder influenced by multiple gene loci, each with small effect. Studies suggest shared genetic influences across DSM-IV alcohol dependence symptoms, but shared effects across DSM-5 alcohol use disorder remains unknown. We aimed to test the assumption of genetic homogeneity across the 11 criteria of DSM-5 alcohol use disorder (AUD).


Data from 2596 alcohol using individuals of European ancestry from the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment were used to examine the genomewide SNP-heritability (h2SNP) and SNP-covariance (rGSNP) between 11 DSM-5 AUD symptoms. Phenotypic relationships between symptoms were examined to confirm an underlying liability of AUD and the SNP-heritability of the observed latent trait and the co-heritabilityamong AUD symptoms was assessed using Genomic-Relatedness-Matrix-Restricted-Maximum-Likelihood. Genetic covariance among symptoms was examined using factor analysis.


Phenotypic relationships confirmed a unidimensional underlying liability to AUD. Factor and parallel analyses of the observed genetic variance/covariance provided evidence of genetic homogeneity. Additive genetic effects on DSM-5 AUD symptoms varied from 0.10 to 0.37 and largely overlapped (rG-SNP across symptoms ranged from 0.49 - 0.92). The additive genetic effect on the DSM-5 AUD factor was 0.36, 0.14 for DSM-5 AUD diagnosis, and was 0.22 for DSM-5 AUD severity.


Common genetic variants influence DSM-5 AUD symptoms. Despite evidence for a common AUD factor, the evidence of only partially overlapping genetic effects across AUD symptoms further substantiates the need to simultaneously model common and symptom-specific genetic effects in molecular genetic studies in order to best characterize the genetic liability.

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