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Environmental risk, Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) methylation and youth callous-unemotional traits: a 13-year longitudinal study

Cecil, CAM; Lysenko, LJ; Jaffee, SR; Pingault, J-B; Smith, RG; Relton, CL; Woodward, G; ... Barker, ED; + view all (2014) Environmental risk, Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) methylation and youth callous-unemotional traits: a 13-year longitudinal study. Molecular Psychiatry , 19 (10) pp. 1071-1077. 10.1038/mp.2014.95. Green open access

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Abstract

Youth with high callous-unemotional traits (CU) are at risk for early-onset and persistent conduct problems. Research suggests that there may be different developmental pathways to CU (genetic/constitutional vs environmental), and that the absence or presence of co-occurring internalizing problems is a key marker. However, it is unclear whether such a distinction is valid. Intermediate phenotypes such as DNA methylation, an epigenetic modification regulating gene expression, may help to clarify etiological pathways. This is the first study to examine prospective inter-relationships between environmental risk (prenatal/postnatal) and DNA methylation (birth, age 7 and 9) in the prediction of CU (age 13), for youth low vs high in internalizing problems. We focused on DNA methylation in the vicinity of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene as it has been previously implicated in CU. Participants were 84 youth with early-onset and persistent conduct problems drawn from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. For youth with low internalizing problems (46%), we found that (i) OXTR methylation at birth associated with higher CU (age 13) as well as decreased experience of victimization during childhood (evocative epigenetic-environment correlation; birth–age 7), (ii) higher prenatal parental risks (maternal psychopathology, criminal behaviors, substance use) associated with higher OXTR methylation at birth and (iii) OXTR methylation levels were more stable across time (birth–age 9). In contrast, for youth with high internalizing problems, CU were associated with prenatal risks of an interpersonal nature (that is, intimate partner violence, family conflict) but not OXTR methylation. Findings support the existence of distinct developmental pathways to CU.

Type: Article
Title: Environmental risk, Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) methylation and youth callous-unemotional traits: a 13-year longitudinal study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/mp.2014.95
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/mp.2014.95
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Early-onset Persistent, Conduct Problem Youth, Dna Methylation, Epigenetic Regulation, Aggressive-behavior, Secondary Variants, Psychopathy, Association, Genome, Childhood
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1458654
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