Variability in the effect of 5-HTTLPR on depression in a large European population: the role of age, symptom profile, type and intensity of life stressors.

Gabriella Juhasz, Xenia Gonda, Gabor Hullam, Nora Eszlari, David Kovacs, Judit Lazary, Dorottya Pap, Peter Petschner, Rebecca Elliott, John Francis William Deakin, Ian Muir Anderson, Peter Antal, Klaus-Peter Lesch, Gyorgy Bagdy

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    BACKGROUND: Although 5-HTTLPR has been shown to influence the risk of life stress-induced depression in the majority of studies, others have produced contradictory results, possibly due to weak effects and/or sample heterogeneity. METHODS: In the present study we investigated how age, type and intensity of life-stressors modulate the effect of 5-HTTLPR on depression and anxiety in a European population cohort of over 2300 subjects. Recent negative life events (RLE), childhood adversity (CHA), lifetime depression, Brief Symptoms Inventory (BSI) depression and anxiety scores were determined in each subject. Besides traditional statistical analysis we calculated Bayesian effect strength and relevance of 5-HTTLPR genotypes in specified models. RESULTS: The short (s) low expressing allele showed association with increased risk of depression related phenotypes, but all nominally significant effects would turn to non-significant after correction for multiple testing in the traditional analysis. Bayesian effect strength and relevance analysis, however, confirmed the role of 5-HTTLPR. Regarding current (BSI) and lifetime depression 5-HTTLPR-by-RLE interactions were confirmed. Main effect, with other words direct association, was supported with BSI anxiety. With more frequent RLE the prevalence or symptoms of depression increased in ss carriers. Although CHA failed to show an interaction with 5-HTTLPR, in young subjects CHA sensitized towards the depression promoting effect of even mild RLE. Furthermore, the direct association of anxiety with the s allele was driven by young (≤30) individuals. LIMITATIONS: Our study is cross-sectional and applies self-report questionnaires. CONCLUSIONS: Albeit 5-HTTLPR has only weak/moderate effects, the s allele is directly associated with anxiety and modulates development of depression in homogeneous subgroups.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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