Contribution of oxytocin receptor polymorphisms to amygdala activation in schizophrenia spectrum disorders


Background: 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. Aims: 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). Method: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

British Journal of Psychiatry Open