Variation in the oxytocin receptor gene is associated with increased risk for anxiety, stress and depression in individuals with a history of exposure to early life stress

Amanda J. Myers, Leanne Williams, Justine M. Gatt, Erica Z. McAuley-Clark, Carol Dobson-Stone, Peter R. Schofield, Charles B. Nemeroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that is involved in the regulation of mood, anxiety and social biology. Genetic variation in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) has been implicated in anxiety, depression and related stress phenotypes. It is not yet known whether OXTR interacts with other risk factors such as early life trauma to heighten the severity of experienced anxiety and depression. Methods: In this study, we examined genotypes in 653 individuals and tested whether SNP variation in OXTR correlates with severity of features of self-reported experience on the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), and whether this correlation is enhanced when early life trauma is taken into account. We also assessed the effects of OXTR SNPs on RNA expression levels in two separate brain tissue cohorts totaling 365 samples. Results: A significant effect of OXTR genotype on DASS anxiety, stress and depression scores was found and ELS events, in combination with several different OXTR SNPs, were significantly associated with differences in DASS scores with one SNP (rs139832701) showing significant association or a trend towards association for all three measures. Several OXTR SNPs were correlated with alterations in OXTR RNA expression and rs3831817 replicated across both sets of tissues. Conclusions: These results support the hypothesis that the oxytocin system plays a role in the pathophysiology of mood and anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-100
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Volume59
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • DASS scale
  • Depression
  • Oxytocin
  • RNA expression
  • SNP
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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