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World J Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Mar;12(2):134-42. doi: 10.3109/15622975.2010.503813. Epub 2010 Jul 20.

Availability of the serotonin transporter in patients with alcohol dependence.

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Department of Psychiatry, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan.



Evidence has suggested that the serotonin transporter (SERT) plays a role in the pathogenesis of alcohol dependence, anxiety and depression and that polymorphisms of the serotonin-transporter-linked promoter region (5-HTTLPR) may influence the SERT. This study evaluated the differences in SERT availability between healthy controls and alcoholic patients and the impact of 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms on SERT availability.


Eleven healthy controls and 28 alcoholic patients were recruited. SERT availability was measured in vivo with single photon emission computed tomography and (123)I-labelled 2-((2-((dimethyl-amino)methyl)phenyl)thio)-5-iodophenylamine in the midbrain, thalamus and striatum. Each subject was genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism.


Compared to healthy controls, there was a significantly lower availability of SERT in the midbrain among patients with pure alcohol dependence (pure ALC). Of patients with anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence (ANX/DEPALC), the carriers of one L(A) allele showed a significantly higher availability of SERT in the striatum compared to non-L(A) carriers. After Bonferroni correction, these significances vanished. There were no significant differences in SERT availability between controls and ANX/DEP ALC.


The results suggest that pure alcoholics may have lower SERT availability in the midbrain; the 5HTTLPR polymorphism may influence SERT availability in ANX/DEP ALC. These findings may serve as a springboard for future large-scale studies.

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