In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers have identified new genetic contributors to anxiety and stress-related disorders—proposing a potential drug target. The study performed a genome-wide association analysis aimed at pinpointing new risk variants, genes, and pathways for the psychiatric conditions.
Among anxiety and other complex psychiatric disorders is an "ever-growing sizes of clinical and population samples are warranted to disentangle independent dimensional psychopathological factors of anxiety, trauma susceptibility, and depression associated with distinct polygenic risk signatures," authors of the study wrote.
One particular target is PDE4B, a gene that codes for an intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate signaling regulator and is "a promising new candidate gene … that crosses classic categorical disease boundaries."
PDE4B was previously investigated in inbred model mice for human anxiety and stress disorders and accustomed to "chronic social defeat”.
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"We highlight the candidate gene PDE4B as a robust risk locus (through studies in mice and humans), pointing to a potential of PDE4B inhibitors in the treatment of these disorders," says first and the corresponding author Sandra Meier, who is currently a researcher in the department of psychiatry at Dalhousie University.
In the study, researchers focused on individuals participating the Lundbeck Foundation's "Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research" (iPSYCH) study that compared array-based genotypes and found six dozen variants on a chromosome 1 region containing PDE4B.
"This study highlights anxiety and stress-related disorders as complex heritable phenotypes with intriguing genetic correlations not only with psychiatric traits, but also with educational outcomes and multiple obesity-related phenotypes," the authors wrote.