Glucocorticoid regulation and neuroanatomy in fragile x syndrome

J Psychiatr Res. 2021 Feb:134:81-88. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.12.015. Epub 2020 Dec 11.


Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the leading known inherited cause for intellectual disability. Due to mutations in the FMR1 gene, affected individuals are at risk for serious cognitive and behavioral symptoms and developmental disability. Clinical presentation varies considerably, and investigation of genetic factors not directly related to FMR1 may help better understand variability. The present study examined the BclI polymorphism of the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1 in 43 individuals with FXS (28 females, age 16 to 25). Females with FXS who presented with one or more G alleles demonstrated attenuated symptoms of anxiety/depression (p = 0.038) and externalizing behaviors (p = 0.042) relative to individuals with the C/C allele. In the combined sample (males and females) structural neuroimaging data differentiated individuals with a G allele from those with the C/C genotype (p < 0.001). Key components of anxiety/fear neurocircuitry (amygdala, insula) contributed more (relative to other regions) to the model differentiating groups. These results indicate that GR polymorphisms are associated with an altered pattern of behavioral and brain development in FXS. This information is important for understanding and treating mood disorders and altered brain development among individuals with FXS. With further research, these findings could be informative for understanding anxiety and mood disorders more broadly.

Keywords: Anxiety; BclI polymorphism; FMR1; Multivariate pattern classification; Structural MRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Female
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein / genetics
  • Fragile X Syndrome* / genetics
  • Glucocorticoids*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Young Adult


  • FMR1 protein, human
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein