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Springer Nature [academic journals on], Neuropsychopharmacology, 7(36), p. 1332-1339

DOI: 10.1038/npp.2011.11



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Interaction of Serotonin Transporter Gene-Linked Polymorphic Region and Stressful Life Events Predicts Cortisol Stress Response

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There has been significant controversy whether stressful life events (SLEs) experienced over the lifespan may elevate the risk of depression in individuals who are homozygous for the short (S) allele of the repeat length polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the regulatory region of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4), compared with individuals homozygous for the long (L) allele. On the basis of the hypothesis that age may be a critical variable, by which such a gene-by-environment interaction may be present in younger adults, but not in older adults and in children, aim of this study was to investigate the role of 5-HTTLPR and SLEs on the endocrine stress response in multiple age cohorts. A total of 115 children (8–12 years), 106 younger adults (18–31 years), and 99 older adults (54–68 years) were subjected to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and structured interviews on SLEs. The TSST induced significant endocrine stress responses in all groups. There was a main effect of genotype in younger and older adults with individuals homozygous for the more active L allele showing a significantly larger cortisol response to the TSST than individuals carrying at least one of the low-expressing S alleles. As predicted, there was a significant interaction of 5-HTTLPR genotype and SLEs, but this interaction was only significant in younger adults and only when the measured SLEs had occurred during the first 5 years of life, suggesting that both age and the specific type of SLE has a role in whether a significant gene–environment interaction is observed.