The genetic background to PTSD

B F P Broekman, M Olff, F Boer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Although extensive research has already been done on the genetic bases of psychiatric disorders, little is known about polygenetic influences in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This article reviews molecular genetic studies relating to PTSD that were found in a literature search in Medline, Embase and Web of Science. Association studies have investigated 8 major genotypes in connection with PTSD. They have tested hypotheses involving key candidate genes in the serotonin (5-HTT), dopamine (DRD2, DAT), glucocorticoid (GR), GABA (GABRB), apolipoprotein systems (APOE2), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neuropeptide Y (NPY). The studies have produced inconsistent results, many of which may be attributable to methodological shortcomings and insufficient statistical power. The complex aetiology of PTSD, for which experiencing a traumatic event forms a necessary condition, makes it difficult to identify specific genes that substantially contribute to the disorder. Gene-finding strategies are difficult to apply. Interactions between different genes and between them and the environment probably make certain people vulnerable to developing PTSD. Gene-environmental studies are needed that focus more narrowly on specific, distinct endophenotypes and on influences from environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-362
Number of pages15
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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