Molecular genetics of obsessive-compulsive disorder: a comprehensive meta-analysis of genetic association studies

Mol Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;18(7):799-805. doi: 10.1038/mp.2012.76. Epub 2012 Jun 5.


Twin studies indicate that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is strongly influenced by additive genetic factors. Yet, molecular genetic association studies have yielded inconsistent results, possibly because of differences across studies in statistical power. Meta-analysis can yield greater power. This study reports the first comprehensive meta-analysis of the relationship between OCD and all previously examined polymorphisms for which there was sufficient information in the source studies to compute odds ratios (ORs). A total of 230 polymorphisms from 113 genetic association studies were identified. A full meta-analysis was conducted for 20 polymorphisms that were examined in 5 or more data sets, and a secondary meta-analysis (limited to the computation of mean effect sizes) was conducted for 210 polymorphisms that were examined in fewer than 5 data sets. In the main meta-analysis, OCD was associated with serotonin-related polymorphisms (5-HTTLPR and HTR2A) and, in males only, with polymorphisms involved in catecholamine modulation (COMT and MAOA). Nonsignificant trends were identified for two dopamine-related polymorphisms (DAT1 and DRD3) and a glutamate-related polymorphism (rs3087879). The secondary meta-analysis identified another 18 polymorphisms with significant ORs that merit further investigation. This study demonstrates that OCD is associated with multiple genes, with most having a modest association with OCD. This suggests a polygenic model of OCD, consistent with twin studies, in which multiple genes make small, incremental contributions to the risk of developing the disorder. Future studies, with sufficient power to detect small effects, are needed to investigate the genetic basis of OCD subtypes, such as early vs late onset OCD.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / genetics*
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • monoamine oxidase A, human
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase