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It is assumed that the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is associated with factors that are related to features of reproduction as well as the currently emerging fields of mood and emotional response.
We analysed data from over 8000 mothers who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). We determined reproductive, emotional and personality differences related to the two SNPs rs53576 and rs2254298 of the oxytocin receptor gene to determine whether there was evidence in this population for: (i) associations with emotional and personality differences, and (ii) behavioural or environmental links with these SNPs using a hypothesis free approach with over 1000 types of exposure.
Our analyses of 7723 women showed that there were no differences in 11 mood, social or relationship characteristics associated with the rs2254298, and just one with rs53576 (with emotional loneliness) – one statistically significant out of 22 tests is no more than would be expected by chance. There were no interactions with childhood abuse. Using a hypothesis-free approach we found few indicators of environmental or behavioural differences associated with rs2254298, but there was an excess of associations with eating habits with rs53576. The findings included an association with dieting to lose weight, and habits typical of bulimia for the women with GG. The nutrition of the women also showed negative associations of the GG genotype with 13 nutrients, including vitamins D, B12 and retinol, and intake of calcium, potassium and iodine.
We conclude that this large database of pregnant women was unable to provide confirmation of the types of personality associated with these two OXTR SNPs, but we have shown some evidence of eating differences in those with GG on rs53576. Confirmation of our hypothesis free associations using other data sets is important.