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Sex differences in the genetic architecture of obsessive-compulsive disorder

By Ekaterina A. Khramtsova, Raphael Heldman, Eske M. Derks, Dongmei Yu, TS/OCD Psychiatric Genomics Disorders Workgroup, Lea K. Davis, Barbara E. Stranger

Posted 21 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/219170 (published DOI: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32687)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a highly heritable complex phenotype, demonstrates sexual dimorphism in age of onset and clinical presentation, suggesting a possible sex difference in underlying genetic architecture. We present the first genome-wide characterization of the sex-specific genetic architecture of OCD, utilizing the largest set of OCD cases and controls available from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. We assessed evidence for several mechanisms that may contribute to sexual-dimorphism including a sexually dimorphic liability threshold, the presence of individual sex-specific risk variants on the autosomes and the X chromosome, genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity, and sex-specific pleiotropic effects. We observed a strong genetic correlation between male and female OCD and no evidence for a sexually dimorphic liability threshold model. While we did not detect any sex-specific genome-wide associations, we observed that the SNPs with sexually dimorphic effects showed an enrichment of regulatory variants influencing expression of genes in immune tissues. Furthermore, top sex-specific genome-wide associations were enriched for regulatory variants in different tissues, suggesting evidence for potential sex difference in the biology underlying risk for OCD. These findings suggest that future studies with larger sample sizes hold great promise for the identification of sex-specific risk factors for OCD, significantly advancing our understanding of the differences in the genetic basis of sexually dimorphic neuropsychiatric traits.

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