Examination of the shared genetic basis of anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Mol Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;25(9):2036-2046. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0115-4. Epub 2018 Aug 7.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are often comorbid and likely to share genetic risk factors. Hence, we examine their shared genetic background using a cross-disorder GWAS meta-analysis of 3495 AN cases, 2688 OCD cases, and 18,013 controls. We confirmed a high genetic correlation between AN and OCD (rg = 0.49 ± 0.13, p = 9.07 × 10-7) and a sizable SNP heritability (SNP h2 = 0.21 ± 0.02) for the cross-disorder phenotype. Although no individual loci reached genome-wide significance, the cross-disorder phenotype showed strong positive genetic correlations with other psychiatric phenotypes (e.g., rg = 0.36 with bipolar disorder and 0.34 with neuroticism) and negative genetic correlations with metabolic phenotypes (e.g., rg = -0.25 with body mass index and -0.20 with triglycerides). Follow-up analyses revealed that although AN and OCD overlap heavily in their shared risk with other psychiatric phenotypes, the relationship with metabolic and anthropometric traits is markedly stronger for AN than for OCD. We further tested whether shared genetic risk for AN/OCD was associated with particular tissue or cell-type gene expression patterns and found that the basal ganglia and medium spiny neurons were most enriched for AN-OCD risk, consistent with neurobiological findings for both disorders. Our results confirm and extend genetic epidemiological findings of shared risk between AN and OCD and suggest that larger GWASs are warranted.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa* / genetics
  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder* / genetics
  • Phenotype