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Psychiatry Res. 2015 Aug 30;228(3):641-8. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.05.040. Epub 2015 Jun 11.

Severity of eating disorder symptoms related to oxytocin receptor polymorphisms in anorexia nervosa.

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University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas TX 75390-8828, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.
University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas TX 75390-8828, USA. Electronic address:


Oxytocin is a peptide hormone important for social behavior and differences in psychological traits have been associated with variants of the oxytocin receptor gene in healthy people. We examined whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) correlated with clinical symptoms in women with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and healthy comparison (HC) women. Subjects completed clinical assessments and provided DNA for analysis. Subjects were divided into four groups: HC, subjects currently with anorexia nervosa (AN-C), subjects with a history of anorexia nervosa but in long-term weight recovery (AN-WR), and subjects with bulimia nervosa (BN). Five SNPs of the oxytocin receptor were examined. Minor allele carriers showed greater severity in most of the psychiatric symptoms. Importantly, the combination of having had anorexia and carrying either of the A alleles for two SNPS in the OXTR gene (rs53576, rs2254298) was associated with increased severity specifically for ED symptoms including cognitions and behaviors associated both with eating and appearance. A review of psychosocial data related to the OXTR polymorphisms examined is included in the discussion. OXTR polymorphisms may be a useful intermediate endophenotype to consider in the treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa.


Anorexia nervosa; Bulimia nervosa; Eating disorders; Oxytocin; Social behavior

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