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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Aug;36(9):1879-85. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.73. Epub 2011 Apr 27.

Neuropeptide-S (NPS) receptor genotype modulates basolateral amygdala responsiveness to aversive stimuli.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.


Recent studies point to a role of neuropeptide-S (NPS) in the etiology of anxiety disorders. In animal models, NPS and its receptor (NPSR) were shown to be highly expressed in the amygdala, a central structure in the fear circuit, also known to be hyper-responsive in anxiety disorders. Recently, a functional polymorphism in the NPSR gene (rs324981 A/T) has been associated with panic disorder and anxiety sensitivity. However, the role of NPSR gene variation in the modulation of fear-related amygdala responsiveness remains to be clarified. In 79 healthy subjects genotyped for NPSR rs324981, amygdala responses were assessed by means of fMRI. The participants were presented with fear-relevant faces in a robust emotion-processing paradigm frequently used to study amygdala responsiveness. We observed a strong association of NPSR T-alleles with right amygdala responsiveness to fear-relevant faces. The association peak was located in the BLA. Furthermore, responsiveness to aversive stimuli within this BLA cluster predicted a participant's self-reported harm avoidance but not depression level. We conclude that NPSR genotype is associated with increased amygdala responsiveness to fear-relevant stimuli. Thereby, NPSR rs324981 apparently causes an indirect effect on anxiety-related traits and potentially contributes to the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders by shaping fear-related limbic activity.

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