Hypermethylation-associated downregulation of microRNA-4456 in hypersexual disorder with putative influence on oxytocin signalling: A DNA methylation analysis of miRNA genes

Epigenetics. Jan-Feb 2020;15(1-2):145-160. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2019.1656157. Epub 2019 Sep 22.


Hypersexual disorder (HD) was proposed as a diagnosis in the DSM-5 and the classification 'Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder' is now presented as an impulse-control disorder in ICD-11. HD incorporates several pathophysiological mechanisms; including impulsivity, compulsivity, sexual desire dysregulation and sexual addiction. No previous study investigated HD in a methylation analysis limited to microRNA (miRNA) associated CpG-sites. The genome wide methylation pattern was measured in whole blood from 60 subjects with HD and 33 healthy volunteers using the Illumina EPIC BeadChip. 8,852 miRNA associated CpG-sites were investigated in multiple linear regression analyses of methylation M-values to a binary independent variable of disease state (HD or healthy volunteer), adjusting for optimally determined covariates. Expression levels of candidate miRNAs were investigated in the same individuals for differential expression analysis. Candidate methylation loci were further studied for an association with alcohol dependence in an independent cohort of 107 subjects. Two CpG-sites were borderline significant in HD - cg18222192 (MIR708)(p < 10E-05,pFDR = 5.81E-02) and cg01299774 (MIR4456)(p < 10E-06, pFDR = 5.81E-02). MIR4456 was significantly lower expressed in HD in both univariate (p < 0.0001) and multivariate (p < 0.05) analyses. Cg01299774 methylation levels were inversely correlated with expression levels of MIR4456 (p < 0.01) and were also differentially methylated in alcohol dependence (p = 0.026). Gene target prediction and pathway analysis revealed that MIR4456 putatively targets genes preferentially expressed in brain and that are involved in major neuronal molecular mechanisms thought to be relevant for HD, e.g., the oxytocin signalling pathway. In summary, our study implicates a potential contribution of MIR4456 in the pathophysiology of HD by putatively influencing oxytocin signalling.

Keywords: DNA methylation; MIR4456; Methylome-wide; MicroRNA; differential methylation; epigenetic dysregulation; epigenetics; gene target prediction; hsa-miR-4456; hypersexual disorder; microRNA expression; microRNA-4456; oxytocin; oxytocin signaling; psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Signal Transduction


  • MIRN-4456 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Oxytocin

Grant support

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. Funding for this study was provided through a regional agreement between Umeå University and Västerbotten County Council (ALF) and by grants provided by the Stockholm County Council (ALF and PPG projects) (Jussi Jokinen). Work from HB is supported by the Swedish Research Foundation, the Åhlens Foundation, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and the Swedish Brain Research Foundation.