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Circ Cardiovasc Genet. 2009 Dec;2(6):614-20. doi: 10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.109.870386. Epub 2009 Oct 9.

Serotonin transporter gene, depressive symptoms, and interleukin-6.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

We explored the relationship of genetic variants of the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4, a key regulator of the serotonergic neurotransmission, with both depressive symptoms and plasma interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels.

METHODS AND RESULTS:

We genotyped 20 polymorphisms in 360 male twins (mean age, 54 years) from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. Current depressive symptoms were measured with the Beck Depression Inventory II. IL-6 was assessed using a commercially available ELISA kit. Genotype associations were analyzed using generalized estimating equations. To study how SLC6A4 genetic vulnerability influences the relationship between depressive symptoms and IL-6, bivariate models were constructed using structural equation modeling. Of the 20 polymorphisms examined, the effective number of independent tests was 6, and the threshold of significance after Bonferroni correction was 0.008. There were 6 single-nucleotide polymorphisms significantly associated with Beck Depression Inventory (P< or =0.008), including rs8071667, rs2020936, rs25528, rs6354, rs11080122, and rs8076005, and 1 single-nucleotide polymorphism was borderline associated (rs12150214, P=0.017). Of these 7 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, 3 were also significantly associated with IL-6 (P<0.008), including rs25528, rs6354, and rs8076005, and the other 4 were borderline associated (P=0.009 to 0.025). The subjects with 1 copy of the minor allele of these 7 single-nucleotide polymorphisms had higher Beck Depression Inventory scores and IL-6 levels. Further bivariate modeling revealed that approximately 10% of the correlation between Beck Depression Inventory and IL-6 could be explained by the SLC6A4 gene.

CONCLUSIONS:

Genetic vulnerability involving the SLC6A4 gene is significantly associated with both increased depressive symptoms and elevated IL-6 plasma levels. Common pathophysiological processes may link depression and inflammation, and implicate the serotonin pathway in neural-immune interactions.

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