Rare Synaptogenesis-Impairing Mutations in SLITRK5 Are Associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

PLoS One. 2017 Jan 13;12(1):e0169994. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169994. eCollection 2017.


Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is substantially heritable, but few molecular genetic risk factors have been identified. Knockout mice lacking SLIT and NTRK-Like Family, Member 5 (SLITRK5) display OCD-like phenotypes including serotonin reuptake inhibitor-sensitive pathologic grooming, and corticostriatal dysfunction. Thus, mutations that impair SLITRK5 function may contribute to the genetic risk for OCD. We re-sequenced the protein-coding sequence of the human SLITRK5 gene (SLITRK5) in three hundred and seventy seven OCD subjects and compared rare non-synonymous mutations (RNMs) in that sample with similar mutations in the 1000 Genomes database. We also performed in silico assessments and in vitro functional synaptogenesis assays on the Slitrk5 mutations identified. We identified four RNM's among these OCD subjects. There were no significant differences in the prevalence or in silico effects of rare non-synonymous mutations in the OCD sample versus controls. Direct functional testing of recombinant SLITRK5 proteins found that all mutations identified in OCD subjects impaired synaptogenic activity whereas none of the pseudo-matched mutations identified in 1000 Genomes controls had significant effects on SLITRK5 function (Fisher's exact test P = 0.028). These results demonstrate that rare functional mutations in SLITRK5 contribute to the genetic risk for OCD in human populations. They also highlight the importance of biological characterization of allelic effects in understanding genotype-phenotype relationships as there were no statistical differences in overall prevalence or bioinformatically predicted effects of OCD case versus control mutations. Finally, these results converge with others to highlight the role of aberrant synaptic function in corticostriatal neurons in the pathophysiology of OCD.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / genetics*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / pathology*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Synapses / pathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Slitrk5 protein, mouse