A review of the role of serotonin system genes in obsessive-compulsive disorder

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating neuropsychiatric disorder that causes the patient to experience intrusive thoughts and/or to carry out repetitive, ritualized behaviors that are time consuming and impairing. OCD is familial and heritable. The genetic factors responsible for pathogenesis, however, remain largely unknown despite the numerous candidate gene studies conducted. Based on efficacy of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) in treating OCD, serotonin system genes have been a dominant focus in OCD candidate gene studies. We review the most commonly studied candidate serotonin system gene variants (specifically in SLC6A4, HTR2A, HTR1B, and HTR2C) and their association with OCD. Although findings to date are mixed, serotonin transporter polymorphism 5-HTTLPR and HTR2A polymorphism rs6311 (or rs6313) are most consistently associated with OCD. Mixed findings may be the result of genetic complexity and phenotypic heterogeneity that future studies should account for. Homogenous patient subgroups reflecting OCD symptom dimensions, OCD subtypes, and sex should be used for gene discovery.

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