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Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2009 Jul 5;150B(5):710-20. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.30897.

Sapap3 and pathological grooming in humans: Results from the OCD collaborative genetics study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.


SAP90/PSD95-associated protein (SAPAP) family proteins are post-synaptic density (PSD) components that interact with other proteins to form a key scaffolding complex at excitatory (glutamatergic) synapses. A recent study found that mice with a deletion of the Sapap3 gene groomed themselves excessively, exhibited increased anxiety-like behaviors, and had cortico-striatal synaptic defects, all of which were preventable with lentiviral-mediated expression of Sapap3 in the striatum; the behavioral abnormalities were also reversible with fluoxetine. In the current study, we sought to determine whether variation within the human Sapap3 gene was associated with grooming disorders (GDs: pathologic nail biting, pathologic skin picking, and/or trichotillomania) and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in 383 families thoroughly phenotyped for OCD genetic studies. We conducted family-based association analyses using the FBAT and GenAssoc statistical packages. Thirty-two percent of the 1,618 participants met criteria for a GD, and 65% met criteria for OCD. Four of six SNPs were nominally associated (P < 0.05) with at least one GD (genotypic relative risks: 1.6-3.3), and all three haplotypes were nominally associated with at least one GD (permuted P < 0.05). None of the SNPs or haplotypes were significantly associated with OCD itself. We conclude that Sapap3 is a promising functional candidate gene for human GDs, though further work is necessary to confirm this preliminary evidence of association.

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