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Oxytocin has been proposed to mediate amygdala dysfunction associated with altered emotion processing in schizophrenia, but the contribution of oxytocin pathway genes is yet to be investigated.
To identify potential different contributions of three oxytocin receptor polymorphisms (rs53576, rs237902 and rs2254298) between patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SCZ), affective spectrum disorders (AD) and healthy controls (HC).
In a total of 346 participants (104 with SCZ, 100 with AD, and 142 HC) underwent genotyping and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during an emotional faces matching paradigm. Genetic association analyses were performed to test the possible effects on task-induced BOLD amygdala response to fearful/angry faces.
In participants with SCZ, the rs237902 G allele was associated with low amygdala activation (left hemisphere: b= −4.99, Bonferroni corrected P=0.04) and interaction analyses showed that this association was disorder specific (left hemisphere: Bonferroni corrected P=0.003; right hemisphere: Bonferroni corrected P=0.03). There were no associations between oxytocin polymorphisms and amygdala activation in the total sample, among AD patients or HC.
Rs237902 was associated with amygdala activation in response to fearful/angry faces only in patients with SCZ. Our findings indicate that the endogenous oxytocin system could serve as a contributing factor in biological underpinnings of emotion processing and that this contribution is disorder specific.
Common variants in the Vaccinia-related kinase 2 (VRK2) gene have been associated with schizophrenia, but the relevance of its encoded protein VRK2 in the disorder remains unclear.
To identify potential differences in VRK2 gene expression levels between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis not otherwise specified (PNOS) and healthy controls.
VRK2 mRNA level was measured in whole blood in 652 individuals (schizophrenia, n = 201; bipolar disorder, n = 167; PNOS, n = 61; healthy controls, n = 223), and compared across diagnostic categories and subcategories. Additionally, we analysed for association between 1566 VRK2 single nucleotide polymorphisms and mRNA levels.
We found lower VRK2 mRNA levels in schizophrenia compared with healthy controls (P<10–12), bipolar disorder (P<10–12) and PNOS (P = 0.0011), and lower levels in PNOS than in healthy controls (P = 0.0042) and bipolar disorder (P = 0.00026). Expression quantitative trait loci in close proximity to the transcription start site of the short isoforms of the VRK2 gene were identified.
Altered VRK2 gene expression seems specific for schizophrenia and PNOS, which is in accordance with findings from genome-wide association studies. These results suggest that reduced VRK2 mRNA levels are involved in the underlying mechanisms in schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
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