Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of the most common mental disorders and is characterized by a pervasive pattern of emotional lability, impulsivity, interpersonal difficulties, identity disturbances, and disturbed cognition. Here, we performed a systematic review of the literature concerning the genetics of BPD, including familial and twin studies, association studies, and gene-environment interaction studies. Moreover, meta-analyses were performed when at least two case-control studies testing the same polymorphism were available. For each gene variant, a pooled odds ratio (OR) was calculated using fixed or random effects models. Familial and twin studies largely support the potential role of a genetic vulnerability at the root of BPD, with an estimated heritability of approximately 40%. Moreover, there is evidence for both gene-environment interactions and correlations. However, association studies for BPD are sparse, making it difficult to draw clear conclusions. According to our meta-analysis, no significant associations were found for the serotonin transporter gene, the tryptophan hydroxylase 1 gene, or the serotonin 1B receptor gene. We hypothesize that such a discrepancy (negative association studies but high heritability of the disorder) could be understandable through a paradigm shift, in which "plasticity" genes (rather than "vulnerability" genes) would be involved. Such a framework postulates a balance between positive and negative events, which interact with plasticity genes in the genesis of BPD.
Keywords: Borderline personality disorder; Genetics; Gene–environment interaction; Plasticity genes.
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