RDoC and translational perspectives on the genetics of trauma-related psychiatric disorders

Janitza L. Montalvo-Ortiz, Joel Gelernter, James Hudziak, Joan Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Individuals with a history of child abuse are at high risk for depression, anxiety disorders, aggressive behavior, and substance use problems. The goal of this paper is to review studies of the genetics of these stress-related psychiatric disorders. An informative subset of studies that examined candidate gene by environment (GxE) predictors of these psychiatric problems in individuals maltreated as children is reviewed, together with extant genome wide association studies (GWAS). Emerging findings on epigenetic changes associated with adverse early experiences are also reviewed. Meta-analytic support and replicated findings are evident for several genetic risk factors; however, extant research suggests the effects are pleiotropic. Genetic factors are not associated with distinct psychiatric disorders, but rather diverse clinical phenotypes. Research also suggests adverse early life experiences are associated with changes in gene expression of multiple known candidate genes, genes involved in DNA transcription and translation, and genes necessary for brain circuitry development, with changes in gene expression reported in key brain structures implicated in the pathophysiology of psychiatric and substance use disorders. The finding of pleiotropy highlights the value of using the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework in future studies of the genetics of stress-related psychiatric disorders, and not trying simply to link genes to multifaceted clinical syndromes, but to more limited phenotypes that map onto distinct neural circuits. Emerging work in the field of epigenetics also suggests that translational studies that integrate numerous unbiased genome-wide approaches will help to further unravel the genetics of stress-related psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-91
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Child abuse
  • Epigenetics
  • Genetics
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • RDoC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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