The serotonin transporter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR): Allelic variation and links with depressive symptoms

Noreen Goldman, Dana A. Glei, Yu Hsuan Lin, Maxine Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: We compare the genotype distribution for the serotonin transporter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in a sample of older Taiwanese adults with samples of various racial and ethnic groups collected in other studies. We also explore interactions among sex, stressors, and 5-HTTLPR genotype on depressive symptoms in our sample. Methods: Using a nationally representative sample of 984 Taiwanese aged 53 and older, we model depressive symptoms as a function of 5-HTTLPR genotype and two classes of stressors: lifetime trauma and recent major life events. We test two- and three-way interactions among stressors, 5-HTTLPR, and sex. Results: This sample exhibits higher frequency of S/S and lower frequency of L/L genotype than Western samples, but the distribution is comparable to those in East Asian populations. Nearly 9% carry an allele (XL) that has rarely been reported in the literature. Although the gene-environment (G x E) interaction with recent major life events is not significant, our results suggest that trauma has a worse effect on depressive symptoms for those with S/S or S/L genotype than for those who do not carry the S allele (P<0.05). We find no evidence that this G x E interaction varies by sex. Conclusions: Previous studies of this G x E interaction have been inconclusive, perhaps because interactions between genotype and stressful events are more prominent under extreme stressors. Our findings underscore the need to move beyond a bi-allelic parameterization of the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism and raise questions about why East Asian populations exhibit low rates of depression despite a high frequency of the S allele.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-269
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Keywords

  • Depressive disorder
  • Life change events
  • SLC6A4 protein
  • Stressful events
  • Taiwan

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