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Open Access Research

The μ-opioid receptor gene and smoking initiation and nicotine dependence

Lan Zhang12, Kenneth S Kendler1 and Xiangning Chen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, USA

2 Psychiatry Department, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2006, 2:28  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-2-28

Published: 4 August 2006


The gene encoding the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) is reported to be associated with a range of substance dependence. Experiments in knockout mice indicate that the mu-opioid receptor may mediate reinforcing effects of nicotine. In humans, opioid antagonist naltrexone may reduce the reinforcing effects of tobacco smoking. Additionally, the OPRM1 gene is located in a region showing linkage to nicotine dependence. The OPRM1 is thus a plausible candidate gene for smoking behavior. To investigate whether OPRM1 contributes to the susceptibility of smoking initiation and nicotine dependence, we genotyped 11 SNPs in the gene for 688 Caucasian subjects of lifetime smokers and nonsmokers. Three SNPs showed nominal significance for smoking initiation and one reached significance for nicotine dependence. The global test for three-marker (rs9479757-rs2075572-rs10485057) haplotypes was significant for smoking initiation (p = 0.0022). The same three-marker haplotype test was marginal (p = 0.0514) for nicotine dependence. These results suggest that OPRM1 may be involved in smoking initiation and nicotine dependence.