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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 Sep;32(9):2046-52. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

Interaction between childhood trauma and serotonin transporter gene variation in suicide.

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  • 1Psychiatry Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, New Jersey VA Health Care System, 385 Tremont Avenue, East Orange, NJ 07018, USA.


Although the serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) contributes to depression and suicidality in a fashion modulated by environmental stress, 5-HTTLPR has been little examined in relation to suicidal behavior in substance dependence. Recently, a third functional allele of 5-HTTLPR was discovered enabling more of the interindividual variation in serotonin transporter expression to be predicted by genotype. We examined whether the 5-HTTLPR gene alone, or interacting with childhood trauma, was predictive of suicidal behavior in substance-dependent patients, a clinical population that is at high risk of suicide, as well as childhood trauma and other stress. We interviewed 306 abstinent male African-American substance-dependent patients about whether they had ever attempted suicide and administered the 34-item Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Patients and 132 male African-American controls were genotyped to determine the S, L(G), and L(A) 5-HTTLPR alleles; some analyses grouped the S and L(G) alleles on the basis of equivalent function. The distribution of 5-HTTLPR genotypes did not differ between patients and controls, nor between suicide attempters and non-attempters. However, patients with low expression 5-HTTLPR genotypes and above-median CTQ scores were more likely to have attempted suicide. Logistic regression showed increasing risk of a suicide attempt with increasing reports of childhood trauma scores; in addition, this increase was exaggerated among those with low expression forms of the 5-HTTLPR genotype. Childhood trauma interacts with low expressing 5-HTTLPR genotypes to increase the risk of suicidal behavior among patients with substance dependence.

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