Research highlight

Genetics of post-traumatic stress disorder in US veterans

Nature Neuroscience

July 30, 2019

Genetic variants associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ‘re-experiencing’ symptoms are identified in a large-scale genome-wide association study of US veterans published online this week in Nature Neuroscience. The study also highlights a potential link to a gene encoding a stress-hormone receptor.

Around 7% of adults experience PTSD in their lifetime, and prevalence is higher among combat veterans. The symptoms include hyperarousal, avoidance, and re-experiencing of a traumatic event, which can be disruptive to day-to-day life. However, not everyone that experiences trauma will develop the disorder, and predisposing factors, including genetics, affect PTSD risk.

Joel Gelernter, Murray Stein and colleagues analysed data from 165,000 participants in the Million Veteran Program to examine genetic links to the PTSD symptom of re-experiencing trauma (for example, nightmares or flashbacks about a traumatic event). The authors identified eight genetic regions associated with PTSD. Among these, they also found a potential link with the corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1) gene, which encodes a stress-hormone receptor. The authors note that although the study included subjects of both European and African ancestry, significant associations were only found in the European group, possibly due to a higher number of study participants.

doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0447-7

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