Context Childhood trauma may predispose individuals to aggressive behavior, and both childhood trauma and aggressive behavior are associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation.
Objective To determine whether there would be an interaction between genetic variation in FKBP5 and childhood trauma in predicting aggressive behavior.
Design Cross-sectional study. Four FKBP5 single-nucleotide polymorphisms used in previous studies (rs3800373, rs9296158, rs1360780, and rs9470080) were genotyped. Three diplotypes were derived from 2 major putatively functional haplotypes regulating protein expression that were previously associated with glucocorticoid receptor sensitivity.
Setting Penitentiary District of Abruzzo-Molise in central Italy.
Participants A population of 583 male Italian prisoners recruited between 2005 and 2008.
Main Outcome Measures A comprehensive analysis of aggression and impulsivity was undertaken using the Brown-Goodwin Lifetime History of Aggression (BGHA) questionnaire, the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory (BDHI), and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS). A history of childhood trauma was investigated with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. The interaction between the FKBP5 diplotypes and childhood trauma on measures of aggression was analyzed. Analyses were replicated with a second behavioral measure of aggression: violent behavior in jail. Individual single-nucleotide polymorphism analysis was performed.
Results Childhood trauma had a significant effect on BGHA and BDHI scores but not on BIS scores. We observed a significant influence of the FKBP5 high-expression diplotype on both a lifetime history of aggressive behavior (BGHA) (P = .012) and violent behavior in jail (P = .025) but only in individuals exposed to childhood trauma, in particular to physical abuse. No main effect of the FKBP5 diplotypes was observed.
Conclusion These data suggest that childhood trauma and variants in the FKBP5 gene may interact to increase the risk of overt aggressive behavior.