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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Association between Dopamine D4 Receptor Polymorphism and Age Related Changes in Brain Glucose Metabolism


Aging is associated with reductions in brain glucose metabolism in some cortical and subcortical regions, but the rate of decrease varies significantly between individuals, likely reflecting genetic and environmental factors and their interactions. Here we test the hypothesis that the variant of the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene (VNTR in exon 3), which has been associated with novelty seeking and sensitivity to environmental stimuli (negative and positive) including the beneficial effects of physical activity on longevity, influence the effects of aging on the human brain. We used positron emission tomography (PET) and [18F]fluoro-D-glucose (18FDG) to measure brain glucose metabolism (marker of brain function) under baseline conditions (no stimulation) in 82 healthy individuals (age range 22–55 years). We determined their DRD4 genotype and found an interaction with age: individuals who did not carry the 7-repeat allele (7R−, n = 53) had a significant (p<0.0001) negative association between age and relative glucose metabolism (normalized to whole brain glucose metabolism) in frontal (r = −0.52), temporal (r = −0.51) and striatal regions (r = −0.47, p<0.001); such that older individuals had lower metabolism than younger ones. In contrast, for carriers of the 7R allele (7R+ n = 29), these correlations with age were not significant and they only showed a positive association with cerebellar glucose metabolism (r = +0.55; p = 0.002). Regression slopes of regional brain glucose metabolism with age differed significantly between the 7R+ and 7R− groups in cerebellum, inferior temporal cortex and striatum. These results provide evidence that the DRD4 genotype might modulate the associations between regional brain glucose metabolism and age and that the carriers of the 7R allele appear to be less sensitive to the effects of age on brain glucose metabolism.

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