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The genotypes and methylation of MAO genes as factors behind smoking behavior

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Smoking dependence is the main cause for tobacco-related illnesses. The addiction-causing substance in tobacco, nicotine, acts through the dopamine pathway in the brain, causing several pleasurable experiences through cigarette smoking. Thus, both genetic and epigenetic factors related to dopamine metabolism may play an important role in influencing an individual’s smoking behavior.

Materials and methods

We studied the 1460 C/T variation and the variable number tandem repeat polymorphism in the MAOA gene and A/G variation in intron 13 in the MAOB gene together with four DNA methylation sites in both of these genes in relation to several smoking-related phenotypes in a study population of 1230 Whites of Russian origin.


The genotypes studied were found to be associated with smoking status in women; the MAOB G variant allele was more prevalent in female smokers than nonsmokers [odds ratio (OR): 2.16, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.08–4.33], whereas a reverse relation was observed for the MAOA 1460 T-variant allele (OR: 0.44, 95% CI: 0.21–0.91) and variable number tandem repeat low-activity alleles (OR: 0.49, 95% CI: 0.24–0.98). Moreover, the mean methylation values of the CpG sites studied in the MAOA gene were related to smoking behavior in women. Similarly, several methylation patterns in the MAOB gene were associated with a smoking history, with each CpG site showing a remarkable sex dependence.


Smoking behavior seems to be related to the genetic and epigenetic profile of MAO genes, with considerable individual and sex-related differences.
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Keywords: DNA methylation; MAO genes; dopamine; genetic variation; monoamine oxidase; smoking dependence; warrior gene

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland 2: N.N. Petrov Institute of Oncology 3: Institute of Pulmonology, Institute of Phthisiopulmonology 4: N.N. Petrov Institute of Oncology, St.-Petersburg Pediatric Medical University, I.I. Mechnikov North-Western Medical University, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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