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Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2011 Dec;19(6):401-8. doi: 10.1037/a0025008. Epub 2011 Aug 15.

Estradiol and progesterone modify the effects of the serotonin reuptake transporter polymorphism on serotonergic responsivity to citalopram.

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Division of Psychobiology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA.


Individual vulnerability to psychopathologies is linked to a number of genetic polymorphisms including the serotonin transporter (5HTT) promoter polymorphic region (5HTTLPR). A single copy of the short variant (s-variant) allele of 5HTTLPR confers increased susceptibility to anxiety disorders and depression and decreased efficacy of serotonin-releasing agents in pharmacotherapy compared to the homozygous long 5HTTLPR variant (l/L). The data suggesting that the 5HTTLPR polymorphism modulates the efficacy of serotonin-releasing agents in pharmacotherapy is inconsistent. Other factors such as age, gender, and hormonal status could interact with 5HTTLPR genotype to affect individual physiological and behavioral responses to serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as citalopram. Indeed, estradiol and progesterone, the primary female steroid hormones, exert an array of effects on the serotonergic system, including 5HTT expression. The present study used ovariectomized female rhesus monkeys to determine the interaction between the 5HTTLPR polymorphism and the effects of midfollicular levels of estradiol and luteal levels of progesterone on serotonergic responsivity to acute citalopram administration. The increase in serum prolactin, a surrogate measure of serotonin activity, following citalopram administration was significantly larger in l/L females than in s-variant females over the course of two hours during concurrent estradiol and progesterone hormone replacement only. These data suggest that ovarian function and the 5HTTLPR polymorphism interact to gate serotonergic reactivity in females, suggesting that clinicians should be aware of the ovarian status and 5HTTLPR genotype of women when considering serotonergic pharmacotherapy in women.

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