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PLoS One. 2019 Feb 15;14(2):e0212330. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0212330. eCollection 2019.

Behavioural and psychiatric phenotypes in female carriers of genetic mutations associated with X-linked ichthyosis.

Author information

1
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics and Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.
2
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.
3
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.

Abstract

X-linked ichthyosis (XLI) is a rare X-linked dermatological condition arising from deficiency for the enzyme steroid sulfatase (STS). STS is normally expressed in the brain, and males with XLI exhibit personality differences from males in the general population, and are at increased risk of developmental and mood disorders. As the STS gene escapes X-inactivation, female carriers of XLI-associated genetic mutations have reduced STS expression/activity relative to non-carrier females, and could manifest similar behavioural phenotypes to males with XLI. Additionally, as STS activity normally increases in female tissues towards late pregnancy and into the puerperium, carrier females could theoretically present with increased rates of postpartum psychopathology. Using a worldwide online survey comprising custom-designed demographic questionnaires and multiple validated psychological questionnaires, we collected detailed self-reported information on non-postpartum and postpartum behaviour in confirmed adult (>16yrs) female carriers of genetic mutations associated with XLI (n = 94) for statistical comparison to demographically-matched previously-published normative data from female controls (seven independent studies, 98≤n≤2562), adult males with XLI (n = 58), and to newly-obtained online survey data from a general population sample of mothers from the United Kingdom and United States of America (n = 263). The pattern of results in carrier females relative to controls was remarkably similar to that previously observed in males with XLI, with evidence for increased rates of developmental and mood disorders, and elevated levels of inattention, impulsivity, autism-related traits and general psychological distress. Carrier females exhibited a significantly elevated rate of postpartum mental health conditions (notably mild depression) relative to controls which could not be accounted for by social factors. Our data confirm the psychological profile associated with XLI-associated mutations, and suggest that female carriers may be at increased risk of psychopathology, including in the postpartum period. These findings are relevant to families affected by XLI, to clinicians involved in the care of these families, and to genetic counsellors.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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