Context The genetic contribution to liability for opioid dependence is well established; identification of the responsible genes has proved challenging.
Objective To examine association of 1430 candidate gene single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with heroin dependence, reporting here only the 71 SNPs in the chromosome 11 gene cluster (NCAM1, TTC12, ANKK1, DRD2) that include the strongest observed associations.
Design Case-control genetic association study that included 2 control groups (lacking an established optimal control group).
Setting Semistructured psychiatric interviews.
Participants A total of 1459 Australian cases ascertained from opioid replacement therapy clinics, 531 neighborhood controls ascertained from economically disadvantaged areas near opioid replacement therapy clinics, and 1495 unrelated Australian Twin Registry controls not dependent on alcohol or illicit drugs selected from a twin and family sample.
Main Outcome Measure Lifetime heroin dependence.
Results Comparison of cases with Australian Twin Registry controls found minimal evidence of association for all chromosome 11 cluster SNPs (P ≥ .01); a similar comparison with neighborhood controls revealed greater differences (P ≥ 1.8 × 10−4). Comparing cases (n = 1459) with the subgroup of neighborhood controls not dependent on illicit drugs (n = 340), 3 SNPs were significantly associated (correcting for multiple testing): ANKK1 SNP rs877138 (most strongly associated; odds ratio = 1.59; 95% CI, 1.32-1.92; P = 9.7 × 10−7), ANKK1 SNP rs4938013, and TTC12 SNP rs7130431. A similar pattern of association was observed when comparing illicit drug–dependent (n = 191) and nondependent (n = 340) neighborhood controls, suggesting that liability likely extends to nonopioid illicit drug dependence. Aggregate heroin dependence risk associated with 2 SNPs, rs877138 and rs4492854 (located in NCAM1), varied more than 4-fold (P = 2.7 × 10−9 for the risk-associated linear trend).
Conclusions Our results provide further evidence of association for chromosome 11 gene cluster SNPs with substance dependence, including extension of liability to illicit drug dependence. Our findings highlight the necessity of considering drug exposure history when selecting control groups for genetic investigations of illicit drug dependence.