Genome-wide association study of therapeutic opioid dosing identifies a novel locus upstream of OPRM1.

Research paper by A H AH Smith, K P KP Jensen, J J Li, Y Y Nunez, L A LA Farrer, H H Hakonarson, S D SD Cook-Sather, H R HR Kranzler, J J Gelernter

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 25 Jan '17Published in: Molecular Psychiatry


Opioids are very effective analgesics, but they are also highly addictive. Methadone is used to treat opioid dependence (OD), acting as a selective agonist at the μ-opioid receptor encoded by the gene OPRM1. Determining the optimal methadone maintenance dose is time consuming; currently, no biomarkers are available to guide treatment. In methadone-treated OD subjects drawn from a case and control sample, we conducted a genome-wide association study of usual daily methadone dose. In African-American (AA) OD subjects (n=383), we identified a genome-wide significant association between therapeutic methadone dose (mean=68.0 mg, s.d.=30.1 mg) and rs73568641 (P=2.8 × 10(-8)), the nearest gene (306 kilobases) being OPRM1. Each minor (C) allele corresponded to an additional ~20 mg day(-1) of oral methadone, an effect specific to AAs. In European-Americans (EAs) (n=1027), no genome-wide significant associations with methadone dose (mean=77.8 mg, s.d.=33.9 mg) were observed. In an independent set of opioid-naive AA children being treated for surgical pain, rs73568641-C was associated with a higher required dose of morphine (n=241, P=3.9 × 10(-2)). Similarly, independent genomic loci previously shown to associate with higher opioid analgesic dose were associated with higher methadone dose in the OD sample (AA and EA: n=1410, genetic score P=1.3 × 10(-3)). The present results in AAs indicate that genetic variants influencing opioid sensitivity across different clinical settings could contribute to precision pharmacotherapy for pain and addiction.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 24 January 2017; doi:10.1038/mp.2016.257.