Association of orexin/hypocretin receptor gene (HCRTR1) with reward sensitivity, and interaction with gender


Orexins/hypocretins maintain wakefulness, increase appetite and participate in the coordination of stress response. We have recently provided evidence on the role of orexins in aggression, showing the association of the HCRTR1 genotype. (rs2271933 G > A; leading to amino acid substitution Ile408Val) with aggressiveness or breach of law in four independent cohorts. Aggressive behaviour can be reward driven and hence we have examined the association of HCRTR1 rs2271933 genotype with different aspects of reward sensitivity in the birth cohort representative Estonian Children Personality Behaviour and Health Study. HCRTR1 genotype was associated with reward sensitivity in a gender dependent manner. Male HCRTR1 A/A homozygotes had higher Openness to Rewards and the overall reward sensitivity score while, in contrast, female A/A homozygotes scored lower than G-allele carriers in Openness to Rewards. In the total sample, aggressiveness correlated positively with reward sensitivity, but this was on account of Insatiability by Reward. In contrast, the HCRTR1 A/A homozygotes had a positive association of aggressiveness and Openness to Rewards. Experience of stressful life events had a small but significant increasing effect on both aspects of reward sensitivity, and correlated in an anomalous way with reward sensitivity in the HCRTR1 A/A homozygotes. Conclusively, the higher aggressiveness of HCRTR1 A/A homozygotes appears based on a qualitative difference in sensitivity to rewards, in the form that suggests their lower ability to prevent responses to challenges being converted into overt aggression.



orexins, HCRTR1, reward sensitivity, aggressiveness, gender