Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

The catecholamine biosynthetic enzyme dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH): first genome-wide search positions trait-determining variants acting additively in the proximal promoter.


Dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH) is the biosynthetic enzyme catalyzing formation of norepinephrine. Changes in DBH expression or activity have been implicated in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric disorders. Genetic determination of DBH enzymatic activity and its secretion are only incompletely understood. We began with a genome-wide association search for loci contributing to DBH activity in human plasma. Initially, in a population sample of European ancestry, we identified the proximal DBH promoter as a region harboring three common trait-determining variants (top hit rs1611115, P = 7.2 × 10(-51)). We confirmed their effects on transcription and showed that the three variants each acted additively on gene expression. Results were replicated in a population sample of Native American descent (top hit rs1611115, P = 4.1 × 10(-15)). Jointly, DBH variants accounted for 57% of DBH trait variation. We further identified a genome-wide significant SNP at the LOC338797 locus on chromosome 12 as trans-quantitative trait locus (QTL) (rs4255618, P = 4.62 × 10(-8)). Conditional analyses on DBH identified a third genomic region contributing to DBH variation: a likely cis-QTL adjacent to DBH in SARDH (rs7040170, P = 1.31 × 10(-14)) on chromosome 9q. We conclude that three common SNPs in the DBH promoter act additively to control phenotypic variation in DBH levels, and that two additional novel loci (SARDH and LOC338797) may also contribute to the expression of this catecholamine biosynthetic trait. Identification of DBH variants with strong effects makes it possible to take advantage of Mendelian randomization approaches to test causal effects of this intermediate trait on disease.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View