PTSD and gene variants: New pathways and new think...

Family and twin studies have found that risk for PTSD is associated with an underlying genetic vulnerability and that more than 30% of the variance associated with PTSD is related to a heritable component. Using a fear conditioning model to conceptualize the neurobiology of PTSD, three primary neuronal systems have been investigated - the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the locus coeruleus-noradrenergic system, and neurocircuitry interconnecting the limbic system and frontal cortex. The majority of the initial investigations into main effects of candidate genes hypothesized to be associated with PTSD risk have been negative, but studies examining the interaction of genetic polymorphisms with specific environments in predicting PTSD have produced several positive results which have increased our understanding of the determinants of risk and resilience in the aftermath of trauma. Promising avenues of inquiry into the role of epigenetic modification have also been proposed to explain the enduring impact of environmental exposures which occur during key, often early, developmental periods on gene expression. Studies of PTSD endophenotypes, which are heritable biomarkers associated with a circumscribed trait within the more complex psychiatric disorder, may be more directly amenable to analysis of the underlying genetics and neural pathways and have provided promising targets for elucidating the neurobiology of PTSD. Knowledge of the genetic underpinnings and neuronal pathways involved in the etiology and maintenance of PTSD will allow for improved targeting of primary prevention amongst vulnerable individuals or populations, as well as timely, targeted treatment interventions.

Skelton, K., Ressler, K. J., Norrholm, S. D., Jovanovic, T., & Bradley-Davino, B. (2012). PTSD and gene variants: New pathways and new thinking. Neuropharmacology, 62(2), 628–637. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.013