Scientists identify new gene linked to PTSD

August 7, 2012

Investigators at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System have identified a new gene linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings, published online in Molecular Psychiatry, indicate that a gene known to play a role in protecting brain cells from the damaging effects of stress may also be involved in the development of PTSD.

The article reports the first positive results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of PTSD and suggests that variations in the retinoid-related orphan receptor alpha (RORA) gene are linked to the development of PTSD.

Mark W. Miller, PhD, associate professor at BUSM and a clinical research psychologist in the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System was the study's principal investigator. Mark Logue, PhD, research assistant professor at BUSM and Boston University School of Public Health and Clinton Baldwin, PhD, professor at BUSM, were co-first authors of the paper.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder defined by serious changes in cognitive, emotional, behavioral and psychological functioning that can occur in response to a psychologically traumatic event. Previous studies have estimated that approximately eight percent of the U.S. population will develop PTSD in their lifetime. That number is significantly greater among combat veterans where as many as one out of five suffer symptoms of the disorder.

Previous GWAS studies have linked the RORA gene to other psychiatric conditions, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, , autism and depression.

"Like PTSD, all of these conditions have been linked to alterations in brain functioning, so it is particularly interesting that one of the primary functions of RORA is to protect from the damaging effects of oxidative stress, hypoxia and inflammation," said Miller.

Participants in the study were approximately 500 male and and their intimate partners, all of whom had experienced trauma and approximately half of whom had PTSD. The majority of the veterans had been exposed to trauma related to their military experience whereas their had experienced trauma related to other experiences, such as sexual or physical assault, serious accidents, or the sudden death of a loved one. Each participant was interviewed by a trained clinician, and DNA was extracted from samples of their blood.

The DNA analysis examined approximately 1.5 million genetic markers for signs of association with PTSD and revealed a highly significant association with a variant (rs8042149) in the RORA gene. The researchers then looked for evidence of replication using data from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study where they also found a significant, though weaker, association between RORA and PTSD.

"These results suggest that individuals with the RORA risk variant are more likely to develop PTSD following trauma exposure and point to a new avenue for research on how the brain responds to trauma," said Miller.

Explore further: Scientists discover dissociative subtype of post-traumatic stress disorder

Related Stories

Scientists discover dissociative subtype of post-traumatic stress disorder

July 2, 2012
A recent study by Erika J. Wolf, PhD, and Principal Investigator Mark W. Miller, PhD, both from the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Department of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine ...

The search for predictors of risk for post-traumatic stress disorder

September 5, 2011
Data in a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggest that certain variants of a gene that helps regulate serotonin (a brain chemical related to mood), may serve as a useful predictor of risk for symptoms ...

PTSD linked to increase risk in heart disease

June 1, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- New research by Dr. Ramin Ebrahimi and his team from the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center was published in The American Journal of Cardiology and shows a link between post-traumatic ...

Recommended for you

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

The iceberg model of self-harm

December 14, 2017
Researchers have created a model of self-harm that shows high levels of the problem in the community, especially in young girls, and the need for school-based prevention measures.

Anti-stress compound reduces obesity and diabetes

December 13, 2017
For the first time, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich could prove that a stress protein found in muscle has a diabetes promoting effect. This finding could pave the way to a completely new treatment ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.