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    Neuronal nitric oxide synthase (NOS-I) impacts on fear/anxiety-like behavior in animals. In humans, the short (S) allele of a functional promotor polymorphism of NOS1 (NOS1 ex1f-VNTR) has been shown to be associated with higher anxiety and altered fear conditioning in healthy subjects in the amygdala and hippocampus (AMY/HIPP). Here, we explore the role of NOS1 ex1f-VNTR as a pathophysiological correlate of panic disorder and agoraphobia (PD/AG). In a sub-sample of a multicenter cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) randomized controlled trial in patients with PD/AG (n = 48: S/S-genotype n=15, S/L-genotype n=21, L/L-genotype n=12) and healthy control subjects, HS (n = 34: S/S-genotype n=7, S/L-genotype n=17, L/L-genotype=10), a differential fear conditioning and extinction fMRI-paradigm was used to investigate how NOS1 ex1f-VNTR genotypes are associated with differential neural activation in AMY/HIPP. Prior to CBT, L/L-allele carriers showed higher activation than S/S-allele carriers in AMY/HIPP. A genotype × diagnosis interaction revealed that the S-allele in HS was associated with a pronounced deactivation in AMY/HIPP, while patients showed contrary effects. The interaction of genotype × stimulus type (CS+, conditioned stimulus associated with an aversive stimulus vs. CS-, unassociated) showed effects on differential learning in AMY/HIPP. All effects were predominately found during extinction. Genotype associated effects in patients were not altered after CBT. Low statistical power due to small sample size in each subgroup is a major limitation. However, our findings provide first preliminary evidence for dysfunctional neural fear conditioning/extinction associated with NOS1 ex1f-VNTR genotype in the context of PD/AG, shedding new light on the complex interaction between genetic risk, current psychopathology and treatment-related effects. Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


    Isabelle C Ridderbusch, Yunbo Yang, Heike Weber, Andreas Reif, Sabine Herterich, Andreas Ströhle, Bettina Pfleiderer, Volker Arolt, Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, Ulrike Lueken, Tilo Kircher, Benjamin Straube. Neural correlates of NOS1 ex1f-VNTR allelic variation in panic disorder and agoraphobia during fear conditioning and extinction in fMRI. NeuroImage. Clinical. 2020;27:102268

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    PMID: 32361414

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