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Association of the serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism with smoking behavior among adolescents.

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  • 1Centro Studi Farmaco-tossicodipendenze, Ser.T., AUSL, Parma, Italy.


Serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) genotype was previously found associated with smoking behavior, difficulty in quitting smoking, and nicotine addiction; with non-replicated findings and contrasting results. Aim of the present study was to evaluate the possible association between 5-HTTLPR genotype and smoking behavior among adolescents, in relationship with psychological characteristics. Two hundred and ten Caucasian high school students (aged 14-19 years); 103 non-smokers, who have never smoked nicotine; and 107 tobacco smokers have been genotyped. Aggressiveness levels and temperamental traits were measured in both smokers and non-smokers, respectively, utilizing Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory (BDHI) and Cloninger Three-Dimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ). Data about school performance have been also collected. The short-short (SS) genotype frequency was significantly higher among smokers compared with non-smokers (P = 0.023). The odds ratio for the SS genotype versus the long-long (LL) genotype frequency was 1.17 [95% CL (0.30-2.05)], when smokers were compared with non-smokers. The SS genotype frequency was significantly higher among heavy smokers with early onset, compared with moderate smokers with late onset (P = 0.042). BDHI irritability scores, NS scores at TPQ, and school failure frequency were significantly higher in smokers than in non-smokers. Multivariate model-fitting analysis evidenced a significantly greater relationship of genotype with irritability levels (BDHI scores) (0.34, P < 0.001) and temperament traits (NS scores) (0.36, P < 0.001), than with school performance (rate of school under-achievements) (0.18, P < 0.05) and nicotine smoking (number of cigarettes) (0.24, P < 0.01). Accordingly, factor-analysis showed that gene polymorphism contributes more directly to BDHI scores and NS scores (0.73; 0.71) than to smoking behavior and school under-achievement (0.54; 0.51). Our data suggest that a decreased expression of the gene encoding the 5-HTT transporter, due to "S" promoter polymorphism, may be associated with smoking behavior among adolescents and increased risk to develop nicotine dependence, possibly in relationship to personality traits, temperamental characteristics, and school under-achievements.

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