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Stressful life events, 5-HTT genotype and risk of depression

  • Stanley Zammit (a1) and Michael J. Owen (a2)
Summary

Studies of how genetic and environmental exposures interact may be essential for understanding the aetiology of complex psychiatric disorders. In this issue of the Journal an Australian study reports evidence of such an interaction on risk of depression. We discuss findings in this field in the context of the limitations inherent in studies of gene–environment interactions.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Stanley Zammit, Department of Psychological Medicine, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff CFI4 4XN, UK. Fax: +44(0)29 2074 7839; e-mail: zammits@cardiff.ac.uk
Footnotes
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See pp. 210–215, this issue.

Declaration of interest

M. J. O. is a consultant to Glaxo Smith Kline and has received honoraria for academic talks from Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca and Glaxo Smith Kline.

Footnotes
References
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Barr, C. S., Newman, T. K., Becker, M. L., et al (2003) The utility of the non-human primate; model for studying gene by environment interactions in behavioral research. Genes, Brain, and Behavior, 2, 336340.
Caspi, A., McClay, J., Moffitt, T. E., et al (2002) Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science, 297, 851854.
Caspi, A., Sugden, K., Moffitt, T. E., et al (2003) Influence of life stress on depression: moderation by a polymorphism in the 5-HTT gene. Science, 301, 386389.
Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Cannon, M., et al (2005) Moderation of the effect of adolescent-onset cannabis use on adult psychosis by a functional polymorphism in the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene: longitudinal evidence of a gene x environment interaction. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 11171127.
Clayton, D. & McKeigue, P. M. (2001) Epidemiological methods for studying genes and environmental factors in complex diseases. Lancet, 358, 13561360.
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Gillespie, N. A., Whitfield, J. B., Williams, B., et al (2005) The relationship between stressful life events, the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) genotype and major depression. Psychological Medicine, 35, 101111.
Grabe, H. J., Lange, M., Wolff, B., et al (2005) Mental and physical distress is modulated by a polymorphism in the 5HT transporter gene interacting with social stressors and chronic disease burden. Molecular Psychiatry, 10, 220224.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Stressful life events, 5-HTT genotype and risk of depression

  • Stanley Zammit (a1) and Michael J. Owen (a2)
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eLetters

5HTT genotype and its future in psychiatry

Sangeetha Chinnadurai, Doctor (Senior house Officer)
23 March 2006

Dear Sir/Madam,

I read with great interest, the journal on 'Stressful life events,5HTT genotype and risk of depression'in the British journal of Psychiatry, March 2006 edition.

There have been numerous research, which throws light on this area of genotype-environmental interaction of major depression.

The author has given a good overview of the evidence for and against this claim.Since the emergence of evidence of polymorphism of 5HTT gene and the s/s allele, it has been linked to various psychiatric disorders major depression,subthreshold depression(Journal of Affective disorders Aug 2005 vol 87 no 2-3 p 291-7), seasonal affective disorders, anxiety disorders as well as physical disorders eg. increased cardiac events after acute MI (Influence of serotonin transporter gene polymorphism on depressive symptoms and new cardiac events after acute MI, American Heart Journal, Oct 2005 vol.150, no 4 p 652-658) and increased recurrent aphthous stomatitis.

On the other hand,environmental factors like socioeconomic status have been linked to variation in brain serotonergic activity independent of the 5HTTLPR genotype(Psychological medicine, April 2005 vol 35, no 4 p519-528).

So we have to tread a careful path as it has been linked to various physical and psychiatric disorders, and we would need large samples with high statistical power to prove this small genetic effect and its link to stressful life events and depression.

Thanking YouYours trulyDr Sangeetha ChinnaduraiSHO in PsychiatryLeighton HospitalCreweCW14QJ
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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