Areas of the body where the RORA gene has been found to be overexpressed or underexpressed: image via ebi.ac.uk
The retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor alpha, RORA for short, is a gene that ordinarily protects our fragile cells from stress, but scientific findings in the last few years have shown that the RORA gene often shuts down when certain other cells destabilize them. This study, conducted by Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System, finds yet another psychiatric disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), linked to a breakdown or 'risk variant' of the RORA gene.
Genome-wide studies have already associated the RORA gene with other psychiatric conditions, such as bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and autism. RORA deficiencies or risk variants have been found in several other diseases, including breast and ovarian cancers, and even age-related macular degeneration.
The Boston study looked at 500 veterans and their 'significant others,' all of whom experienced trauma, either related to their military experience or to physical or psychological traumas in other areas of their lives. Participants were interviewed by a trained clinician and gave samples of their blood.
Results indicated that among the 1.5 million genetic markers screened, a variant (rs8042149) in the RORA gene positively associated with participant PTSD. Another study, used for correlative data, showed similar, though slightly weaker, coincidence among identified PTSD subjects from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study.
Scientists have found at least 18 variants in the RORA gene. Prior knowledge of these variants should lead to better prediction of risk for identified diseases and disorders, as well as new targets for medications.
This study is published online in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry.
sources: MNT, Wikigenes, Archives of Ophthalmology, Science Digest, European Bioinformatics Institute