Genomic risk for post-traumatic stress disorder in families densely affected with alcohol use disorders

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 Aug;28(8):3391-3396. doi: 10.1038/s41380-023-02117-9. Epub 2023 Jun 21.


Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic markers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in civilian and military populations. However, studies have yet to examine the genetics of PTSD while factoring in risk for alcohol dependence, which commonly co-occur. We examined genome-wide associations for DSM-IV PTSD among 4,978 trauma-exposed participants (31% with alcohol dependence, 50% female, 30% African ancestry) from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). We also examined associations of polygenic risk scores (PRS) derived from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC)-PTSD Freeze 2 (N = 3533) and Million Veterans Program GWAS of PTSD (N = 5200) with PTSD and substance dependence in COGA, and moderating effects of sex and alcohol dependence. 7.3% of COGA participants met criteria for PTSD, with higher rates in females (10.1%) and those with alcohol dependence (12.3%). No independent loci met genome-wide significance in the PTSD meta-analysis of European (EA) and African ancestry (AA) participants. The PGC-PTSD PRS was associated with increased risk for PTSD (B = 0.126, p < 0.001), alcohol dependence (B = 0.231, p < 0.001), and cocaine dependence (B = 0.086, p < 0.01) in EA individuals. A significant interaction was observed, such that EA individuals with alcohol dependence and higher polygenic risk for PTSD were more likely to have PTSD (B = 0.090, p < 0.01) than those without alcohol dependence. These results further support the importance of examining substance dependence, specifically alcohol dependence, and PTSD together when investigating genetic influence on these disorders.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism* / genetics
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / genetics
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / genetics