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Salivary cortisol in unaffected twins discordant for affective disorder

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Dysfunction in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been proposed as a biological endophenotype for affective disorders. In the present study the hypothesis that a high genetic liability to affective disorder is associated with higher cortisol levels was tested in a cross-sectional high-risk study. Healthy monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins with (High-Risk twins) and without (Low-Risk twins) a co-twin history of affective disorder were identified through nationwide registers. Awakening and evening salivary cortisol levels were compared between the 190 High- and Low-Risk twins. The 109 High-Risk twins had significantly higher evening cortisol levels than the 81 Low-Risk MZ twins, also after adjustment for age, sex, and the level of subclinical depressive symptoms. No significant difference was found in awakening cortisol levels between High-Risk and Low-Risk twins. In conclusion, a high genetic liability to affective disorder was associated with a higher evening cortisol level, but not with awakening cortisol level. Future prospective family, high-risk and twin studies are needed to decide whether abnormalities in the HPA axis can be identified as an endophenotype of affective disorder.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume161
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)292-301
Number of pages10
ISSN0165-1781
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2008

    Research areas

  • Adult, Bipolar Disorder, Circadian Rhythm, Depressive Disorder, Diseases in Twins, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Hydrocortisone, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Life Change Events, Male, Middle Aged, Pituitary-Adrenal System, Risk Factors, Saliva, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Twin Study

ID: 52574655