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Association of Superoxide Dismutase 2 ( SOD2 ) Genotype with Gray Matter Volume Shrinkage in Chronic Alcohol Users: Replication and Further Evaluation of an Addiction Gene Panel


Reduction in brain volume, especially gray matter volume, has been shown to be one of the many deleterious effects of prolonged alcohol consumption. High variance in the degree of gray matter tissue shrinkage among alcohol-dependent individuals and a previous neuroimaging genetics report suggest the involvement of environmental and/or genetic factors, such as superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2). Identification of such underlying factors will help in the clinical management of alcohol dependence. We analyzed quantitative magnetic resonance imaging and genotype data from 103 alcohol users, including both light drinkers and treatment-seeking alcohol-dependent individuals. Genotyping was performed using a custom gene array that included genes selected from 8 pathways relevant to chronic alcohol-related brain volume loss. We replicated a significant association of a functional SOD2 single nucleotide polymorphism with normalized gray matter volume, which had been reported previously in an independent smaller sample of alcohol-dependent individuals. The SOD2-related genetic protection was observed only at the cohort's lower drinking range. Additional associations between normalized gray matter volume and other candidate genes such as alcohol dehydrogenase gene cluster (ADH), GCLC, NOS3, and SYT1 were observed across the entire sample but did not survive corrections for multiple comparisons. Converging independent evidence for a SOD2 gene association with gray matter volume shrinkage in chronic alcohol users suggests that SOD2 genetic variants predict differential brain volume loss mediated by free radicals. This study also provides the first catalog of genetic variations relevant to gray matter loss in chronic alcohol users. The identified gene-brain structure relationships are functionally pertinent and merit replication.

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