BACKGROUND: Cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use are the leading cause of preventable mortality in the world. A better understanding of the etiology of nicotine addiction may help to increase the success rate of cessation and to decrease the massive morbidity and mortality associated with smoking. METHODS: To identify genetic polymorphisms that contribute to nicotine dependence, our group undertook a genetic association study including three enzyme families that potentially influence nicotine metabolism: cytochrome P450 enzymes, flavin monooxygenases (FMOs), and UDP-glucuronosyl transferases. RESULTS: Several polymorphisms in FMO1 showed association in a discovery sample, and were tested in an independent replication sample. One polymorphism, rs10912765, showed an association that remained significant after Bonferroni correction (nominal P=0.0067, corrected P=0.0134). Several additional polymorphisms in linkage disequilibrium with this single nucleotide polymorphism also showed association. Subsequent in-vitro experiments characterized FMO1 as a more efficient catalyst of nicotine N-oxidation than FMO3. In adult humans, FMO1 is primarily expressed in the kidney and is likely to be a major contributor to the renal metabolism and clearance of therapeutic drugs. FMO1 is also expressed in the brain and could contribute to the nicotine concentration in this tissue. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that polymorphisms in FMO1 are significant risk factors in the development of nicotine dependence and that the mechanism may involve variation in nicotine pharmacology.
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