Development of a COMT PCR multiplex to investigate resilience, anxiety and childhood trauma in a South African population
Anxiety, resilience and childhood trauma can be categorized as functional behavioural categories, with a wealth of research behind each. The research approach adopted for each, in most cases, is either from a genetic or neuropsychological standpoint, with few studies combining both to better understand all three functional behavioural categories as a multidimensional construct A number of candidate genes have been identified as markers for anxiety, resilience and childhood trauma, of which Catechol-methyl-transferase (COMT) and several respective single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are included. Although COMT SNPs have been linked to at least one of the functional categories, with a handful of haplotypes identified, to our knowledge no study has investigated the combination of SNPs selected for this study (rs6269, rs4818, rs4680, rs4633, rs737865, rs2075507) as a possible haplotype, specifically in a South African population. The use of SNaPshot for the genotyping of genes is an efficient and reliable means of identifying genotype frequencies and haplotypes in large sample groups, yet when selecting more than two SNPs of interest, the development of a multiplex assay is ideal. The first aim of the study was to design and optimize a multiplex assay to genotype several COMT SNPs. The primer design, multiplex optimization and SNaPshot conditions used showed good working parameters that can be utilized and further improved by optimization. Self-report measures are widely used to measure psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, and has also been used for the measurement of resilience and childhood trauma. With each functional behavioural category well investigated in its respective domain, there is a need to investigate all three as a collective in a South African population due to the high rate of anxiety and childhood trauma exposure in communities. The second aim of the study was to investigate the prevalence of anxiety, resilience and childhood as functional behavioural categories in the full South African sample group; and the role of sex, through established self-report measures and respective normative data. Additionally, this carried over into investigating the correlation between anxiety, resilience and childhood trauma as a multidimensional construct in both the full South African sample and between sexes. There is a clear relationship which exists between all three functional behavioural categories, as they show a correlation in various dimensions independent of one another. Higher anxiety levels amongst females were reported, with no difference between sexes for resiliency. The empirical data collected from both COMT SNP and self-report measures for male and female where explored and reviewed against current literature for better understanding and insight into the association of COMT SNPs with anxiety, resilience and childhood trauma in a South African population. The results of this study to understand the complexity and association of all three functional behavioural categories as a multidimensional construct will be invaluable and may assist in the identification of possible risk factors which are essential for the promotion of better mental health in society.