Decreased oxytocin plasma levels and oxytocin receptor expression in borderline personality disorder

J L Carrasco, E Buenache, K S MacDowell, I De la Vega, J M López-Villatoro, B Moreno, M Díaz-Marsá, J C Leza
Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 2020 August 2

INTRODUCTION: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by intense affective reactions with underlying social and interpersonal cognitive deficits. Oxytocin has largely been associated with both stress regulation and social cognition in psychiatric patients and in non-clinical populations in previous studies. Finally, abnormal oxytocin levels have been preliminary reported in BPD patients.

METHODS: 53 patients with moderate-severe BPD and 31 healthy control subjects were investigated for plasma levels of oxytocin and protein expression of oxytocin receptor in blood mononuclear cells. Clinical assessments were made for severity, functionality, and comorbidity with axis I and II conditions.

RESULTS: Oxytocin plasma levels were significantly lower in BPD patients compared with controls. In addition, protein expression of oxytocin receptor was significantly reduced in the BPD group. A positive correlation was found between plasma oxytocin levels and the activity index score of the Zuckerman-Kuhlman Personality Questionnaire (ZKPQ). Oxytocin receptor protein expression, on the contrary, had a negative correlation with the ZKPQ sociability index score.

CONCLUSIONS: Results support the evidence of a dysfunction of the oxytocin system in borderline personality disorder, which could be involved in emotional dysregulation and interpersonal disturbances in these patients.

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