Are genetic variations in OXTR, AVPR1A, and CD38 genes important to social integration? Results from two large US cohorts
Some evidence suggests that genetic polymorphisms in oxytocin pathway genes influence various social behaviors, but findings thus far have been mixed. Many studies have been based in small samples and there is possibility of publication bias. Using data from 2 large U.S. prospective cohorts with over 11,000 individuals, we investigated 88 SNPs in OXTR, AVPR1A, and CD38, in relation to social integration (measured as social connectedness in both binary and continuous forms and being continuously married). After correction for multiple testing only one SNP in CD38 (rs12644506) was significantly associated with social integration and that SNP predicted when using a dichotomized indicator of social connectedness (adjusted p=0.02), but not a continuous measure of social connectedness or the continuously married outcome. A significant gender-heterogeneous effect was identified in one OXTR SNP on dichotomized social connectedness; specifically, rs4686302 T allele was nominally associated with social connectedness in men, whereas the association direction was opposite in women (adjusted gender heterogeneity p=0.02). Furthermore, the rs53576 A allele was significantly associated with social connectedness only in women, and the effect magnitude was stronger in a dominant genetic model (adjusted p=0.003). In summary, our findings suggested that common genetic variants of OXTR, CD38, and AVPR1A are not associated with social integration as measured in this study using the simplified Berkman-Syme Social Network Index, but these findings and other work hint that effects may be modified by gender or other social experiences. Further work considering genetic pathways in relation to social integration may be more fruitful if these additional factors can be more comprehensively evaluated.
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