Interaction between polygenic risk for cigarette use and environmental exposures in the Detroit neighborhood health study

J. L. Meyers, M. Cerdá, S. Galea, K. M. Keyes, A. E. Aiello, M. Uddin, D. E. Wildman, K. C. Koenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cigarette smoking is influenced both by genetic and environmental factors. Until this year, all large-scale gene identification studies on smoking were conducted in populations of European ancestry. Consequently, the genetic architecture of smoking is not well described in other populations. Further, despite a rich epidemiologic literature focused on the social determinants of smoking, few studies have examined the moderation of genetic influences (for example, gene-environment interactions) on smoking in African Americans. In the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS), a sample of randomly selected majority African American residents of Detroit, we constructed a genetic risk score (GRS), in which we combined top (P-value <5 × 10-7) genetic variants from a recent meta-analysis conducted in a large sample of African Americans. Using regression (effective n=399), we first tested for association between the GRS and cigarettes per day, attempting to replicate the findings from the meta-analysis. Second, we examined interactions with three social contexts that may moderate the genetic association with smoking: traumatic events, neighborhood social cohesion and neighborhood physical disorder. Among individuals who had ever smoked cigarettes, the GRS significantly predicted the number of cigarettes smoked per day and accounted for ∼3% of the overall variance in the trait. Significant interactions were observed between the GRS and number of traumatic events experienced, as well as between the GRS and average neighborhood social cohesion; the association between genetic risk and smoking was greater among individuals who had experienced an increased number of traumatic events in their lifetimes, and diminished among individuals who lived in a neighborhood characterized by greater social cohesion. This study provides support for the utility of the GRS as an alternative approach to replication of common polygenic variation, and in gene-environment interaction, for smoking behaviors. In addition, this study indicates that environmental determinants have the potential to both exacerbate (traumatic events) and diminish (neighborhood social cohesion) genetic influences on smoking behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere290
JournalTranslational psychiatry
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • African American
  • cigarette smoking
  • gene-environment interaction
  • genetic risk score
  • neighborhoods
  • nicotine
  • traumatic life events

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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