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Mol Psychiatry. 2005 Feb;10(2):220-4.

Mental and physical distress is modulated by a polymorphism in the 5-HT transporter gene interacting with social stressors and chronic disease burden.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University of Greifswald, Klinikum der Hansestadt Stralsund, Rostocker Chaussee 70, 18437 Stralsund, Germany.


Previous studies have yielded conflicting results as to the putative role of the functional polymorphism of the promoter region of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) in the etiology of anxiety-related traits and depressive disorders. Recently, a significant gene-environment interaction was found between life stressors, the short allele of the SLC6A4 polymorphism and depression. The aim of the present study was to investigate if such a gene-environment interaction could be replicated within a different population with a different risk structure. A total of 1005 subjects from a general population sample (Study of Health in Pomerania) were genotyped. Mental and physical distress were assessed on 38 items of the modified complaint scale (BL-38). The interaction between the SLC6A4 genotype, social stressors and chronic diseases with regard to the BL-38 score was evaluated by ANOVA. There was no independent association of genotype with mental and physical distress. However, significant interactions between genotype, unemployment and chronic diseases (F = 6.6; df = 3, 671; P < 0.001) were found in females but not in males. The genotype explained 2% of the total variance of the BL-38 score and 9.1% of the explained variance. The results partly confirm previous findings of a significant gene-environment interaction of the short allele, indicating a higher mental vulnerability to social stressors and chronic diseases. The relevance of this finding is sustained by the fact that the sample characteristics and the risk structure were highly different from previous studies.

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