Oxytocin receptor gene methylation as a molecular marker for severity of depressive symptoms in affective disorder patients

Birgit Ludwig, Laura Carlberg, Klemens Kienesberger, Patrick Swoboda, Marleen M M Swoboda, Alexandra Bernegger, Romina Koller, Michelle Inaner, Monika Fuxjäger, Melanie Zotter, Nicolas Schmelzle, Birgit Senft, Lisa Meisner, Daniela Fischer-Hansal, Jasmin Huber, Silvia Schoenthaler, Nestor D Kapusta, Helmuth Haslacher, Martin Aigner, Andreas WeinhaeuselSiegfried Kasper, Alexandra Schosser

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

3 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Oxytocin (OXT) is a neuropeptide and hormone involved in emotional functioning and also seems to play a role in moderating the stress response. Both preclinical and clinical studies point to an increased methylation status of the Oxytocin receptor (OXTR) promoter region with concomitant deficits in social, cognitive and emotional functioning. We hypothesize that methylation levels (%) of the oxytocin receptor promoter region correlate with the severity of depression symptoms and/or with the severity of childhood trauma within this present sample of affective disorder patients.

METHODOLOGY: Eight hundred forty six (846) affective disorder patients of Central European origin were recruited at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Medical University Vienna, the Karl Landsteiner University for Health and Science and Zentren für seelische Gesundheit, BBRZ-Med Leopoldau. Psychiatric assessment included a semi-structured diagnostic interview (Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry), the Hamilton Depression Scale and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Concomitantly DNA samples of peripheral blood cells were collected for Multiplexed and Sensitive DNA Methylation Testing.

RESULTS: Our data suggests a positive but not significant association between OXTR promoter Exons 1-3 methylation levels and severity of depression symptoms as well as severity of emotional neglect in affective disorder patients and no association with childhood trauma.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings contribute to elucidate the role of OXTR in affective disorders, but further longitudinal studies in particular are necessary to broaden the current state of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number381
Pages (from-to)381
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Biomarkers
  • DNA Methylation
  • Depression/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders
  • Oxytocin/metabolism
  • Receptors, Oxytocin/genetics


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