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A comparison of information from the popular press and the scientific press about the gene for "Homo Sapiens Dopamine Receptor D2"

Dopamine receptor D2, known as “DRD2” or DRD-2,” is the topic of articles from both the scientific press and popular press.  Alleles of the DRD2 gene are associated with disorders of “compulsive behavior:” substance abuse, substance dependence, obesity, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  In 1990, the gene for DRD2 was associated with alcoholism. Noble, Dec. 2000

Figure 1. Chime image of DRD2 modeled on Bacteriorhodopsin.
For more information on this image, click here.

According to the scientific press:
The scientific press targets a specific audience in order to communicate highly specific research information.  The author expects the reader to be familiar with background material.  The focus of scientific articles is often very specific.

The information from the scientific press concerning DRD2 is specific.  DRD2, coded for by locus 11q23 in the human chromosome, is one receptor for the neurotransmitter dopamine.  This transmembrane receptor is a member of the rhodopsin family.  The coding region of the gene contains four RSPs (restriction site polymorphisms), Taq1A, Taq1B, and Taq1D.  It also includes a one dinucleotide STRP or short tandem repeat polymorphism. Kidd, 1998

There is some disagreement over whether or not DRD2 has any association with alcoholism. Johnson  Alleles of DRD2 Taq1A and Taq1B have been associated with addiction problems.  Noble asserts that, "The identification the phenotypes of DRD2 genotypes suggests that the observed intronic DRD2 mutations may have functional consequences that predispose individuals to a variety of substance use disorders." Noble, 1998  In the case of the DRD2-A alleles, "[it] is hypothesized that in an effort to compensate for deficiencies in the dopaminergetic system, substance abusers may seek to stimulate the mesocorticolimbic circuits of the brain, long thought to be important in behavioral reward and reinforcement.  In effect, one form of the DRD2 gene, the A1 allele, renders the dopaminergetic system inefficient and rewards substance abuse that increases brain dopamine levels.” Noble, March 2000  But in their study, Gorwood et al. found that "[the] A1 allele does not increase the risk for alcoholism per se..., but may be involved in a related trait which is partially dependent on the diagnosis of alcoholism, through a disequilibrium with another close mutation." Gorwood, 2000

According to the popular press:
The popular press targets a general audience. Its information is more accessible than that from the scientific press.  The popular press vocabulary is more general and information tends to be simplified.  Some popular press adaptations of scientific articles stray from the focus of the original research in order to make the information more relevant to a general audience.

The popular press information about DRD2 has different goals than the scientific articles.  Rather than focusing on the details of molecular pathways or genetics, the popular press is giving them ethical significance.  Noble describes the way this information may change society’s feelings towards addicts: “For a long time, we have thought that smoking and drinking and drug abuse were all bad habits that were environmentally determined…  But while the environment you are raised in contributes somewhat, what you inherit from your mother and father is more important.  They are not moral weaknesses, but medical disorders just like any other medical problem.” Maugh, 2000  In an article by Sean Hargrave, Noble is reported to have said that “further research could lead to medication capable of toning town some people’s tendency to become easily hooked on a drug or hobby.” Hargrave, 1998

See popular press articles linking DRD2 to:

Sources Consulted:
  1. Brown, David. "Genetic Studies Yield Opposite Results; Connection between DNA 'Marker' and Alcoholism Remains Unclear." The Washington Post 2 Oct. 1991, final ed.: A3.
  2. Friend, Tim. "Violence linked to gene defect: pleasure deficit may be the spark." USA Today 9 May 1996, final ed.: D1.
  3. Gorwood, P., J. Ades, P. Batel, F. Courtois, J. Feingold, and L. Gouya.  "Reappraisal of the association between the DRD2 gene, alcoholism and addiction."  European-Psychology March, 2000; 15 (2) 90-96.
  4. Hargrave, Sean. "Bungee Jumping." Sunday Times 19 July 1998, sec. "Features."
  5. Johnson, Karen. "Abstract." The Dopamine D2 Receptor as a Candidate Gene for Alcoholism: A thesis submitted in partial requirement for the degree of Bachelor of Science. <>
  6. Kidd, Kenneth K. "A global survey of haplotype frequencies and linkage disquilibrium at the DRD2 locus." Human Genetics  Aug., 1998; 103 (2) 211-227.
  7. Maugh, Thomas H., II. "Study links gene pattern to strong smoking addiction; Health: finding supports view that an impaired ability to feel pleasure plays a role in the addictive process." Los Angeles Times 4 March 2000, home ed.: A1.
  8. Noble, E. P. "Addiction and its reward process through polymorphisms of the D2 dopamine receptor gene: A review." European-Psychiatry March 2000; 15 (2) 7-89.
  9. Noble, Ernest P. "Addiction may be in the genes." Los Angeles Times 4 Dec. 2000, home ed.: B7.
  10. Noble, Ernest P. "The D2 dopamine receptor gene: A review of association studies in alcoholism and phenotypes." Alcohol - July 1998; 16 (1) 35-45.
  11. Peterson, Susan. "'Fat Gene' linked to brain chemical, other addictions." The Phoenix Gazette 15 March 1994, final ed.: A1.

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