Drug abuse and dependence are multifaceted disorders with complex genetic underpinnings. Identifying specific genetic correlates is challenging and may be more readily accomplished by defining endophenotypes specific for addictive disorders. Symptoms and syndromes, including acute drug response, consumption, preference, and withdrawal, are potential endophenotypes characterizing addiction that have been investigated using model organisms. We present a review of major genes involved in serotonergic, dopaminergic, GABAergic, and adrenoreceptor signaling that are considered to be directly involved in nicotine, opioid, cannabinoid, and ethanol use and dependence. The zebrafish genome encodes likely homologs of the vast majority of these loci. We also review the known expression patterns of these genes in zebrafish. The information presented in this review provides support for the use of zebrafish as a viable model for studying genetic factors related to drug addiction. Expansion of investigations into drug response using model organisms holds the potential to advance our understanding of drug response and addiction in humans.
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