Genome-wide association study of shared liability to anxiety disorders in Army STARRS

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2020 Jun;183(4):197-207. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32776. Epub 2019 Dec 30.


Anxiety disorders (ANX), namely generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and phobias, are common, etiologically complex syndromes that show increasing prevalence and comorbidity throughout adolescence and beyond. Few genome-wide association studies (GWAS) examining ANX risk have been published and almost exclusively in individuals of European ancestry. In this study, we phenotyped participants from the Army Study To Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (STARRS) to approximate DSM-based ANX diagnoses. We factor-analyzed those to create a single dimensional anxiety score for each subject. GWAS were conducted using that score within each of three ancestral groups (EUR, AFR, LAT) and then meta-analyzed across ancestries (NTotal = 16,510). We sought to (a) replicate prior ANX GWAS findings in ANGST; (b) determine whether results extended to other ancestry groups; and (c) meta-analyze with ANGST for increased power to identify novel susceptibility loci. No reliable genome-wide significant SNP associations were detected in STARRS. However, SNPs within the CAMKMT gene located in region 2p21 associated with shared ANX risk in ANGST were replicated in EUR soldiers but not other ancestry groups. Combining EUR STARRS and ANGST (N = 28,950) yielded a more robust 2p21 association signal (p = 9.08x10-11 ). Gene-based analyses supported three genes within 2p21 and LBX1 on chromosome 10. More powerful ANX genetic studies will be required to identify further loci.

Keywords: anxiety; anxiety disorder; genetics; genome-wide association study; panic disorder.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / genetics
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Risk
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult