Background: Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is a prevalent and severe clinical condition. Robust evidence suggests a gene-environment interplay in its etiopathogenesis, yet the underlying molecular clues remain only partially understood. In order to further deepen our understanding of OCD, it is essential to ascertain how genes interact with environmental risk factors, a cross-talk that is thought to be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. The human microbiota may be a key player, because bacterial metabolites can act as epigenetic modulators. We analyzed, in the blood and saliva of OCD subjects and healthy controls, the transcriptional regulation of the oxytocin receptor gene and, in saliva, also the different levels of major phyla. We also investigated the same molecular mechanisms in specific brain regions of socially isolated rats showing stereotyped behaviors reminiscent of OCD as well as short chain fatty acid levels in the feces of rats. Results: Higher levels of oxytocin receptor gene DNA methylation, inversely correlated with gene expression, were observed in the blood as well as saliva of OCD subjects when compared to controls. Moreover, Actinobacteria also resulted higher in OCD and directly correlated with oxytocin receptor gene epigenetic alterations. The same pattern of changes was present in the prefrontal cortex of socially-isolated rats, where also altered levels of fecal butyrate were observed at the beginning of the isolation procedure. Conclusions: This is the first demonstration of an interplay between microbiota modulation and epigenetic regulation of gene expression in OCD, opening new avenues for the understanding of disease trajectories and for the development of new therapeutic strategies.

Regulation of oxytocin receptor gene expression in obsessive–compulsive disorder: a possible role for the microbiota-host epigenetic axis

Sergi M.;Maccarrone M.;
2022

Abstract

Background: Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is a prevalent and severe clinical condition. Robust evidence suggests a gene-environment interplay in its etiopathogenesis, yet the underlying molecular clues remain only partially understood. In order to further deepen our understanding of OCD, it is essential to ascertain how genes interact with environmental risk factors, a cross-talk that is thought to be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. The human microbiota may be a key player, because bacterial metabolites can act as epigenetic modulators. We analyzed, in the blood and saliva of OCD subjects and healthy controls, the transcriptional regulation of the oxytocin receptor gene and, in saliva, also the different levels of major phyla. We also investigated the same molecular mechanisms in specific brain regions of socially isolated rats showing stereotyped behaviors reminiscent of OCD as well as short chain fatty acid levels in the feces of rats. Results: Higher levels of oxytocin receptor gene DNA methylation, inversely correlated with gene expression, were observed in the blood as well as saliva of OCD subjects when compared to controls. Moreover, Actinobacteria also resulted higher in OCD and directly correlated with oxytocin receptor gene epigenetic alterations. The same pattern of changes was present in the prefrontal cortex of socially-isolated rats, where also altered levels of fecal butyrate were observed at the beginning of the isolation procedure. Conclusions: This is the first demonstration of an interplay between microbiota modulation and epigenetic regulation of gene expression in OCD, opening new avenues for the understanding of disease trajectories and for the development of new therapeutic strategies.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11697/192019
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