1998 OCF Grant

Obsessive compulsive disorder in a genetically homogenous population

Dan J. Stein, MD & James A. Knowles, MD, PhD

Medical Research Council Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders (South Africa), Columbia University (New York, NY)

Some research into the genetics behind OCD attempted to find specific genes that would serve as markers for the disorder. At the time of this study, different expression of the catechol-o-methyl transferase gene (COMT) demonstrated potential for serving as a signature for OCD.

This study, led by Drs. Stein and Knowles, looked at the risk of OCD connected to a COMT expression in a homogenous (genetically similar) Afrikaner group in South Africa. The team compared genetic samples from 54 OCD patients and 54 healthy controls to find whether H/L (high allele/low allele) alleles in COMT play a role in OCD risk. The results demonstrated that the OCD group had more expression of the H/L allele than the control group. As this signature was confirmed in a homogenous group of participants, the team stressed the need for more research in other genetically homogenous populations.


Resulting Publication:

*Niehaus, D.J.H., Kinnear, C.J., Corfield, V.A., du Toit, P.L., van Kradenburg, J., Moolman-Smook, J.C., Weyers, J.B., Potgieter, A., Seedat, S., Emsley, R.A., Knowles, J.A., Brink, P.A., & Stein, D.J. (2001). Association between a catechol-o-methyltransferase polymorphism and obsessive-compulsive disorder in the Afrikaner population. Journal of Affective Disorders, 65, 61-65. doi:10.1016/S0165-0327(00)00246-9