Sex and Diagnosis-Specific Associations between DNA Methylation of the Oxytocin Receptor Gene with Emotion Processing and Temporal-Limbic and Prefrontal Brain Volumes in Psychotic Disorders

Leah H. Rubin, Jessica J. Connelly, James L. Reilly, C. Sue Carter, Lauren L. Drogos, Hossein Pournajafi-Nazarloo, Anthony C. Ruocco, Sarah K. Keedy, Ian Matthew, Neeraj Tandon, Godfrey D. Pearlson, Brett A. Clementz, Carol A. Tamminga, Elliot S. Gershon, Matcheri S. Keshavan, Jeffrey R. Bishop, John A. Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background The oxytocin (OT) system, including receptor epigenetic mechanisms, has been shown to influence emotion processing, especially in females. Whether OT receptor (OXTR) epigenetic alterations occur across psychotic disorders in relation to illness-related disturbances in social cognition and brain anatomy is unknown. Methods Participants with affective and nonaffective psychotic disorders (92 women, 75 men) and healthy controls (38 women, 37 men) from the Chicago site of the Bipolar and Schizophrenia Network on Intermediate Phenotypes study completed the Penn Emotion Recognition Test, a facial emotion recognition task. We measured cytosine methylation at site -934 upstream of the OXTR start codon in DNA from whole blood and for the first time their relationship with plasma OT levels assessed by enzyme-immunoassay. Volumes of brain regions supporting social cognition were measured from magnetic resonance imaging scans using FreeSurfer. Results Patients with prototypic schizophrenia features showed higher levels of DNA methylation than those with prototypic bipolar features. Methylation was higher in women than men and was associated with poorer emotion recognition only in female patients and controls. Greater methylation was associated with smaller volumes in temporal-limbic and prefrontal regions associated previously with social cognition but only in healthy women and females with schizophrenia. Conclusions DNA methylation of the OXTR site -934 was higher in schizophrenia spectrum than bipolar patients. Among patients, it was linked to behavioral deficits in social cognition and neuroanatomic structures known to support emotion processing only in schizophrenia spectrum individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-151
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Keywords

  • Emotion recognition
  • Epigenetics
  • Oxytocin
  • Psychosis
  • Sex differences
  • Structural imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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    Rubin, L. H., Connelly, J. J., Reilly, J. L., Carter, C. S., Drogos, L. L., Pournajafi-Nazarloo, H., Ruocco, A. C., Keedy, S. K., Matthew, I., Tandon, N., Pearlson, G. D., Clementz, B. A., Tamminga, C. A., Gershon, E. S., Keshavan, M. S., Bishop, J. R., & Sweeney, J. A. (2016). Sex and Diagnosis-Specific Associations between DNA Methylation of the Oxytocin Receptor Gene with Emotion Processing and Temporal-Limbic and Prefrontal Brain Volumes in Psychotic Disorders. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 1(2), 141-151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2015.10.003