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HPA-axis genes as potential risk variants for neurocognitive decline in trauma-exposed, HIV-positive females

Authors Jacobs S, Moxley K, Womersley JS, Spies G, Hemmings SMJ, Seedat S

Received 2 March 2018

Accepted for publication 29 June 2018

Published 28 September 2018 Volume 2018:14 Pages 2497—2504

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S166992

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Justinn Cochran

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder


Sean Jacobs, Karis Moxley, Jacqueline S Womersley, Georgina Spies, Sian MJ Hemmings, Soraya Seedat

Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

Purpose: Previous studies have independently provided evidence for the effects of HIV infection, hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction and early life trauma on neurocognitive impairment (NCI). This study examined the interaction between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of two HPA axis genes, corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1; rs110402, rs242924, rs7209436, and rs4792888) and corticotrophin-releasing hormone-binding protein (CRHBP; rs32897, rs10062367, and rs1053989), childhood trauma, and HIV-associated NCI.
Patients and methods: The sample comprised 128 HIV-positive Xhosa females of whom 88 (69%) had a history of childhood trauma. NCI was assessed using a battery of 17 measures sensitive to the effects of HIV, and the history of childhood trauma was assessed using the validated retrospective Childhood Trauma Questionnaire-Short Form. Generalized linear regression models were used to compare allelic distribution by trauma status and global NCI. The association between genotype, childhood trauma, and cognitive scores was also evaluated using generalized linear regression models, assuming additive models for the SNPs, and ANOVA.
Results: Of the seven polymorphisms assessed, only the rs10062367 variant of CRHBP was significantly associated with global NCI (P=0.034), independent of childhood trauma. This polymorphism was not significantly associated with z-scores on any specific cognitive domain. The interaction of childhood trauma and variants of CRHR1 was associated with poorer learning (rs110402) and/or recall (rs110402 and rs4792888).
Conclusion: These findings suggest that CRHBP rs10062367 A allele is a possible risk variant for NCI in HIV, independent of childhood trauma. Furthermore, results show that the interaction of childhood trauma with variants of CRHR1, rs110402 and rs4792888, confer added vulnerability to NCI in HIV-infected individuals in cognitive domains that are known to be impacted by HIV. While these findings need independent replication in larger samples, it adds CRHBP and CRHR1 to the list of known genes linked to HIV- and childhood trauma-associated neurocognitive phenotypes.

Keywords: neurocognitive impairment, HIV, childhood trauma, HPA-axis, CRHBP, CRHR1

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