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Open Access Research

Sexually dimorphic effects of oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR ) variants on Harm Avoidance

Trayana Stankova1, Peter Eichhammer2, Berthold Langguth2 and Philipp G Sand2*

Author Affiliations

1 Experimental and Clinical Neurosciences Graduate Program, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

2 Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Regensburg, Universitaetsstrasse 84, 93053 Regensburg, Germany

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Biology of Sex Differences 2012, 3:17  doi:10.1186/2042-6410-3-17

Published: 30 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Recent research has suggested that oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) variants may account for individual differences in social behavior, the effects of stress and parenting styles. Little is known, however, on a putative role of the gene in heritable temperamental traits.

Methods

We addressed effects of two common OXTR variants, rs237900 and rs237902, on personality dimensions in 99 healthy subjects using the Temperament and Character Inventory.

Results

When sex was controlled for and an OXTR genotype*sex interaction term was included in the regression model, 11% of the variance in Harm Avoidance could be explained (uncorrected pā€‰ā‰¤ā€‰0.01). Female carriers of the minor alleles scored highest, and a novel A217T mutation emerged in the most harm avoidant male participant.

Conclusions

Findings lend support to a modulatory effect of common OXTR variants on Harm Avoidance in healthy caucasian women and invite resequencing of the gene in anxiety phenotypes to identify more explanatory functional variation.

Keywords:
Oxytocin receptor gene; Personality traits; Sexual dimorphism