Gender differences in association between serotonin transporter gene polymorphism and personality traits

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Since Lesch and colleagues reported an association between anxiety-related traits (Neuroticism) and a functional polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene regulatory region (5-HTTLPR), there have been several reports on 5-HTTLPR and personality traits with both positive and negative results. The present study was a further attempt to replicate the original findings of Leschet a population of well-defined normal healthy subjects. In addition, a variable number tandem repeat polymorphism in the second intron was included in this study because it has recently been shown to act as a transcriptional regulator. Personality traits were evaluated in 186 unrelated normal subjects by the NEO Five Factor Inventory. The most important and novel finding of this study was a significant association of mean Neuroticism scores with the short allele of 5-HTTLPR in male subjects (t= 2.4,P= 0.018). We were thus able to replicate the finding of Leschet al.of an association between serotonin transporter gene polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and Neuroticism, but only in a male population. We also found a significant effect of gender on mean scores of Neuroticism [F= 3.9, degrees of freedom (df) = 1, 180,P= 0.05] and Agreeableness (F= 6.8, df = 1, 180,P= 0.01), but no significant effect of 5-HTTLPR genotype on Neuroticism (F= 0.87, df = 2, 180,P= 0.42) or Agreeableness (F= 0.35, df = 2, 180,P= 0.7). These findings suggest that gender differences exist in contribution of genetic factors to behavioural phenotypes. They may also explain the inconsistencies in previous reports on association of Neuroticism with 5-HTTLPR from studies using different proportions of male and female subjects.

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