Human genetic variants associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are identified in an analysis published online this week in Nature Communications. Genes and neural pathways influenced by these variants are pinpointed. Isolating and characterizing such genes may help us to understand the underlying biology and develop treatments for this disease.
OCD is a highly heritable, debilitating neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts and time-consuming repetitive behaviours. Over 80 million people worldwide suffer from OCD, and most do not find relief with available therapeutics. Previous studies of humans, mice and dogs implicated variants potentially involved in OCD, but specific genes and variants have not been validated in humans.
By analyzing sequencing data for 608 candidate genes, Huyn Ji Noh and colleagues identify four genes strongly associated with OCD in human cases. These genes act in neural pathways linked to OCD, including serotonin and glutamate signaling and synaptic connectivity, suggesting potential therapeutic targets. The findings offer new insights into the biological basis of compulsive behaviour.