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Mol Psychiatry. 1997 Sep;2(5):403-6.

Obsessive compulsive disorder, response to serotonin reuptake inhibitors and the serotonin transporter gene.

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Neurogenetics Section, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Canada.


Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common illness, characterized by anxiety-provoking thoughts and the need to perform rituals. OCD is most commonly treated with a class of pharmacological agents known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs). SRIs block the reuptake of serotonin (5-HT) into the presynaptic neuron, a process mediated by the serotonin transporter (5-HTT). The successful use of SRIs in OCD has led to the hypothesis that 5-HTT may play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of OCD. We decided to study this hypothesis from a genetic perspective, because family and twin studies suggest that there is a strong genetic component to OCD. In addition, the sequence of the gene for 5-HTT is available, and a 44-bp insertion/deletion polymorphism has been detected in the promoter region of the gene. There is evidence that this polymorphism alters expression of the transporter protein. We typed 72 OCD patients and 72 matched controls, and found no statistically significant difference between the two groups (chi 2 = 4.319, P = 0.115, 2 d.f.). We observed however a trend towards increased homozygosity in the patient group. We also rated (retrospectively) the patients' clinical responses to SRIs. No association was observed between these ratings and the promoter region polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene. Given the pharmacological evidence favoring a role for 5-HTT in OCD and SRI response, further genetic evaluation of the serotonin transporter in OCD is indicated.

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