5-HTTLPR-environment interplay and its effects on neural reactivity in adolescents

Nicholas D. Walsh, Tim Dalgleish, Valerie J. Dunn, Rosemary Abbott, Michelle C. St Clair, Matthew Owens, Graeme Fairchild, William S. Kerslake, Lucy V. Hiscox, Luca Passamonti, Michael Ewbank, Maria Ban, Andrew J. Calder, Ian M. Goodyer

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It is not known how 5-HTTLPR genotype × childhood adversity (CA) interactions that are associated with an increased risk for affective disorders in population studies operate at the neural systems level. We hypothesized that healthy adolescents at increased genetic and environmental risk for developing mood disorders (depression and anxiety) would demonstrate increased amygdala reactivity to emotional stimuli compared to those with only one such risk factor or those with none. Participants (n = 67) were classified into one of 4 groups dependent on being homozygous for the long or short alleles within the serotonin-transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) of the SLC6A4 gene and exposure to CA in the first 11. years of life (present or absent). A functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation was undertaken which involved viewing emotionally-salient face stimuli. In addition, we assessed the role of other variables hypothesized to influence amygdala reactivity, namely recent negative life-events (RNLE) assessed at ages 14 and 17, current anxiety symptoms and psychiatric history. We replicated prior findings demonstrating moderation by gene variants in 5-HTTLPR, but found no support for an effect of CA on amygdala reactivity. We also found a significant effect of RNLE aged 17 with amygdala reactivity demonstrating additive, but not interactive effects with 5-HTTLPR. A whole-brain analysis found a 5-HTTLPR × CA interaction in the lingual gyrus whereby CA appears to differentially modify neural reactivity depending on genotype. These results demonstrate that two different forms of environmental adversities interplay with 5-HTTLPR and thereby differentially impact amygdala and cortical reactivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1670-1680
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2012

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