Aim: The present study employed Experience Sampling Methodology to examine whether the interaction between childhood bullying and FKBP5 variability (i) is associated with the expression of psychotic-like experiences, paranoia, and negative affect, and (ii) moderates psychotic-like, paranoid, and affective reactivity to different forms of momentary stress (situational and social) in daily life. Methods: A total of 206 nonclinical young adults were interviewed for bullying with the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse and were prompted randomly eight times daily for one week to complete assessments of their current experiences, affect, and stress appraisals. Participants were genotyped for three FKBP5 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs3800373, rs9296158, and rs1360780) that have been linked to hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity. Multilevel analyses were conducted to examine the effect of the interaction between childhood bullying and the FKBP5 haplotype derived from these three SNPs. Results: The interaction between bullying and the FKBP5 haplotype was associated with positive, but not negative, psychotic-like experiences, paranoia, and negative affect. The bullying x FKBP5 interaction also moderated the association of a social stress appraisal (specifically, being alone because people do not want to be with you) with psychotic-like experiences and negative affect in daily life. Simple slopes analyses indicated that, in all cases, the associations were significantly increased by exposure to bullying in participants with the risk haplotype, but not for those with the non-risk haplotype. Discussion: The present study provides the first evidence of the interplay between childhood bullying and FKBP5 variability in the real-world expression of psychosis proneness and social stress reactivity. The findings underscore the importance of investigating how gene-environment interactions are involved in mechanistic pathways to the extended psychosis phenotype and lend further support to the increasing relevance given to socially defeating appraisals in the experience of reality distortion.
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