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BMC Psychiatry. 2007 May 21;7:19.

Serotonin transporter binding of [123I]ADAM in bulimic women, their healthy twin sisters, and healthy women: a SPET study.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, HUSLAB/Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland. anu.koskela@helsinki.fi

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is believed to be caused by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors. Previous studies support the existence of a bulimia-related endophenotype as well as disturbances in serotonin (5-HT) transmission. We studied serotonin transporter (SERT) binding in BN, and to investigate the possibility of a SERT-related endophenotype for BN, did this in a sample of female twins. We hypothesized clearly reduced SERT binding in BN women as opposed to healthy women, and intermediate SERT binding in unaffected co-twins.

METHODS:

We studied 13 female twins with BN (9 with purging and 4 with non-purging BN) and 25 healthy women, including 6 healthy twin sisters of BN patients and 19 women from 10 healthy twin pairs. [123I]ADAM, a selective SERT radioligand for single photon emission tomography (SPET) imaging, was used to assess SERT availability in the midbrain and the thalamus.

RESULTS:

No differences in SERT binding were evident when comparing the BN women, their unaffected co-twins and the healthy controls (p = 0.14). The healthy sisters of the BN patients and the healthy control women had similar SERT binding in both brain regions. In a post hoc subgroup analysis, the purging bulimics had higher SERT binding than the healthy women in the midbrain (p = 0.03), but not in the thalamus.

CONCLUSION:

Our finding of increased SERT binding in the midbrain in the purging BN women raises the possibility that this subgroup of bulimics might differ in serotonergic function from the non-purging ones. The similarity of the unaffected co-twins and the healthy controls doesn't support our initial assumption of a SERT-related endophenotype for BN. Due to the small sample size, our results need to be interpreted with caution and verified in a larger sample.

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