First genetic findings in children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorders

December 16, 2002

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a severe psychiatric illness. The onset of disease often occurs during childhood. OCD is characterized by recurrent and intrusive thoughts (obsessions), usually accompanied by repetitive behaviours (compulsions), the person feels to be driven to perform, e.g. excessive washing of hands. Insight is generally preserved, thus the patient acknowledges the senseless nature of the symptoms. An extensive body of evidence supports the involvement of genetic components in the pathogenesis of OCD. OCD can be effectively treated with serotonin reuptake inhibitors, thus, it has been suggested that genes involved in the serotonergic system may be involved in the aetiology of this disorder. The University clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of Würzburg has investigated the etiology of early onset OCD in both family-based studies and longitudinal studies for many years. These studies demonstrated high prevalence of this disorder in the relatives of OCD patients. This supports the hypothesis that genetic factors play a role in OCD disease etiology.

In the present multicenter study, a positive association was identified between OCD and a sequence variant of a serotonergic receptor gene (A-allele of the 5-HT2A-receptor promoter polymorphism -1438G/A). The association suggests that this genetic phenotype is a risk factor for early onset OCD and may represent either a direct or an indirect influence on development of this disorder. The results also indicate that molecular genetic studies should consider age of onset when investigating disease etiology and risk factors.
Citation source: Molecular Psychiatry 2002 Volume 7, number 10, pages 1054-1057.

For further information on this work, please contact Dr. Susanne Walitza, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Julius-Maximilians University, Fuechsleinstrasse 15, Wuerzburg, 97080, Germany. Phone: 49-931-201-7801. Fax: 49-931-201-7804

Molecular Psychiatry is published by the Nature Publishing Group.

Editor: Julio Licinio, M.D.; phone: 310-825-7113; FAX: 310-206-6715; e-mail:

For a copy of this article, please contact Aimee Midei, editorial assistant, e-mail:


Molecular Psychiatry

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