The effects of early trauma and the FKBP5 gene on PTSD and the HPA axis in a clinical sample of Gulf War veterans

Psychiatry Res. 2018 Dec;270:961-966. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2018.03.037. Epub 2018 Mar 16.


Previous research indicates that interactions between FKBP5 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and child abuse are associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood. We examined the relationship between the T-allele of the rs1360780 FKBP5 SNP and child abuse on PTSD and the HPA axis in a clinical sample of Gulf War veterans. Genotyping was completed on 266 veterans and 174 veterans additionally participated in a low dose dexamethasone suppression test (DST). The CAPS was used to determine PTSD status and the THQ was used to determine child abuse operationalized as either childhood physical or sexual abuse. Hierarchical regression models were used to assess FKBP5 × child abuse interactions on PTSD, basal cortisol levels, and post DST cortisol levels. The FKBP5 risk allele and child abuse were separately associated with PTSD diagnosis. The risk allele was also associated with significantly lower cortisol levels at baseline. However, no significant FKBP5 × child abuse interaction on PTSD diagnosis, basal cortisol levels, or greater cortisol suppression was observed. Our results suggest that FKBP5 may be a viable biomarker for PTSD. Nonetheless, further work will be required to reconcile our findings with previous reports of an FKBP5 × child abuse interaction on posttraumatic stress response.

Keywords: Cortisol; Dexamethasone suppression test; Gene × environment interactions; Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; PTSD; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events / psychology
  • Alleles
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Gulf War
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Psychological Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / genetics*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Tacrolimus Binding Proteins / blood*
  • United States
  • Veterans / psychology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Tacrolimus Binding Proteins
  • tacrolimus binding protein 5
  • Hydrocortisone