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Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7(1):118-22.

Early experience and serotonin transporter gene variation interact to influence primate CNS function.

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  • 1National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Laboratory of Clinical Studies-Primate Unit, Poolesville, MD 20837, USA.


Nonhuman primates offer unique opportunities to study the effects of genes, environments, and their interaction, on physiology and complex behavior. We examined genotype and early environment contributions to CNS function in a large sample of rhesus monkeys. In humans, length variation of the serotonin (5-HT) transporter (5-HTT) gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) that results in allelic variation in 5-HTT expression is associated with decreased serotonergic function and 5-HT-mediated psychopathology. We report that an analogous variation of the gene's regulatory region in monkeys interacts with early experience to affect central 5-HT functioning. Monkeys with deleterious early rearing experiences were differentiated by genotype in cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of the 5-HT metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, while monkeys reared normally were not. These findings demonstrate an environment-dependent effect of the rh5-HTTLPR genotype on CNS 5-HT function and suggest nonhuman primates may provide an important avenue for investigating gene/environment interactions using candidate genes for physiological and behavioral traits.

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