Objectives: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a common and heritable psychiatric disorder. However, genetic studies in SAD are rare and only a few candidate genes have been implicated so far. In the present study, we investigated whether single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with other psychiatric disorders also contribute toward the development of SAD and followed up variants associated with SAD on the phenotypic level.
Patients and methods: We genotyped a total of 24 SNPs in a German sample of 321 SAD patients and 804 controls. We carried out single-marker analyses as well as quantitative association analyses of SAD severity and harm avoidance.
Results: None of the variants investigated showed an association with SAD in our case-control sample after Bonferroni correction. Two SNPs reached nominal significance (rs818702, P=0.032; rs140701, P=0.048). Of these, only rs140701 showed an association in the same allelic direction as reported previously. This SNP is located within the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4, which is the primary target of selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors used for the treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders. The quantitative association analysis of all cases with available data on symptom severity showed four SNPs with a nominal significant association. Among these SNPs, rs10994359 showed the strongest association (P=0.001) and was located near the ANK3 gene. In addition, rs10994359 was nominally associated with harm avoidance scores (P=0.001).
Conclusion: Our results provide further evidence for an involvement of the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4 in the etiology of anxiety-related traits. Furthermore, our study implicates that genetic variation at the genome-wide associated bipolar disorder locus ANK3 might influence anxiety-related personality traits.