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Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2010;94:241-70. doi: 10.1016/S1877-1173(10)94009-X.

Genetic findings in anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

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  • 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are complex disorders associated with disordered eating behavior. Heritability estimates derived from twin and family studies are high, so that substantial genetic influences on the etiology can be assumed for both. As the monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems are involved in eating disorders (EDs), candidate gene studies have centered on related genes; additionally, genes relevant for body weight regulation have been considered as candidates. Unfortunately, this approach has yielded very few positive results; confirmed associations or findings substantiated in meta-analyses are scant. None of these associations can be considered unequivocally validated. Systematic genome-wide approaches have been performed to identify genes with no a priori evidence for their relevance in EDs. Family-based scans revealed linkage peaks in single chromosomal regions for AN and BN. Analyses of candidate genes in one of these regions led to the identification of genetic variants associated with AN. Currently, an international consortium is conducting a genome-wide association study for AN, which will hopefully lead to the identification of the first genome-wide significant markers.

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