ADP ribosyl-cyclases (CD38/CD157), social skills and friendship

Anne Chong*, Fabio Malavasi, Salomon Israel, Chiea Chuen Khor, Von Bing Yap, Mikhail Monakhov, Soo Hong Chew, Poh San Lai, Richard P. Ebstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Why some individuals seek social engagement while others shy away has profound implications for normal and pathological human behavior. Evidence suggests that oxytocin (OT), the paramount human social hormone, and CD38 that governs OT release, contribute to individual differences in social skills from intense social involvement to extreme avoidance that characterize autism. To explore the neurochemical underpinnings of sociality, CD38 expression of peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) was measured in Han Chinese undergraduates. First, CD38 mRNA levels were correlated with lower Autism Quotient (AQ), indicating enhanced social skills. AQ assesses the extent of autistic-like traits including the propensity and dexterity needed for successful social engagement in the general population. Second, three CD157 eQTL SNPs in the CD38/CD157 gene region were associated with CD38 expression. CD157 is a paralogue of CD38 and is contiguous with it on chromosome 4p15. Third, association was also observed between the CD157 eQTL SNPs, CD38 expression and AQ. In the full model, CD38 expression and CD157 eQTL SNPs altogether account for a substantial 14% of the variance in sociality. Fourth, functionality of CD157 eQTL SNPs was suggested by a significant association with plasma oxytocin immunoreactivity products. Fifth, the ecological validity of these findings was demonstrated with subjects with higher PBL CD38 expression having more friends, especially for males. Furthermore, CD157 sequence variation predicts scores on the Friendship questionnaire. To summarize, this study by uniquely leveraging various measures reveals salient elements contributing to nonkin sociality and friendship, revealing a likely pathway underpinning the transition from normality to psychopathology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)185-192
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Autism quotient
  • CD157
  • CD38 expression
  • Friendship
  • Human social affiliation
  • Oxytocin


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