Cumulative Risk of the Oxytocin Receptor Gene Interacts with Prenatal Exposure to Oxytocin Receptor Antagonist to Predict Children's Social Communication Development

Edwa Friedlander, Nurit Yirmiya, Efrat Laiba, Ayelet Harel-Gadassi, Maya Yaari, Ohad Feldstein, David Mankuta, Salomon Israel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Compelling evidence for the far-reaching role of oxytocin (OT) in social cognition and affiliative behaviors set the basis for examining the association between genetic variation in the OT receptor (OXTR) gene and risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the current study, gene–environment interaction between OXTR and prenatal exposure to either OT or OXTR antagonist (OXTRA) in predicting early social communication development was examined. One hundred and fifty-three children (age: M = 4.32, SD = 1.07) were assigned to four groups based on prenatal history: children whose mothers prenatally received OXTRA and Nifedipine to delay preterm labor (n = 27); children whose mothers received Nifedipine only to delay preterm labor (n = 35); children whose mothers received OT for labor augmentation (n = 56), and a no intervention group (n = 35). Participants completed a developmental assessment of intelligence quotient (IQ), adaptive behavior, and social communication abilities. DNA was extracted via buccal swab. A genetic risk score was calculated based on four OXTR single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs53576, rs237887, rs1042778, and rs2254298) previously reported to be associated with ASD symptomatology. OXTRrisk-allele dosage was associated with more severe autism diagnostics observation schedule (ADOS) scores only in the OXTRA group. In contrast, in the Nifedipine, OT, and no intervention groups, OXTRrisk-allele dosage was not associated with children's ADOS scores. These findings highlight the importance of both genetic and environmental pathways of OT in signaling early social development and raise the need for further research in this field. Autism Res 2019, 12: 1087–1100.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1087-1100
Number of pages14
JournalAutism Research
Volume12
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords

  • OXTR
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • gene–environment interaction
  • oxytocin
  • oxytocin receptor antagonist
  • oxytocin receptor gene

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