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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Feb;52:72-82. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.10.028. Epub 2014 Nov 11.

Personality and gene expression: Do individual differences exist in the leukocyte transcriptome?

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School of Medicine, Division of Primary Care, Tower Building (Room 1305), University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK. Electronic address:
School of Medicine, Division of Primary Care, Tower Building (Room 1305), University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK.
Department of Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA.
School of Medicine, Division of Child Health, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, D floor, East Block QMC, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



The temporal and situational stability of personality has led generations of researchers to hypothesize that personality may have enduring effects on health, but the biological mechanisms of such relationships remain poorly understood. In the present study, we utilized a functional genomics approach to examine the relationship between the 5 major dimensions of personality and patterns of gene expression as predicted by 'behavioural immune response' theory. We specifically focussed on two sets of genes previously linked to stress, threat, and adverse socio-environmental conditions: pro-inflammatory genes and genes involved in Type I interferon and antibody responses.


An opportunity sample of 121 healthy individuals was recruited (86 females; mean age 24 years). Individuals completed a validated measure of personality; questions relating to current health behaviours; and provided a 5ml sample of peripheral blood for gene expression analysis.


Extraversion was associated with increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes and Conscientiousness was associated with reduced expression of pro-inflammatory genes. Both associations were independent of health behaviours, negative affect, and leukocyte subset distributions. Antiviral and antibody-related gene expression was not associated with any personality dimension.


The present data shed new light on the long-observed epidemiological associations between personality, physical health, and human longevity. Further research is required to elucidate the biological mechanisms underlying these associations.


Antibody; Antiviral; Gene expression; Immunity; Personality; Pro-inflammatory

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