Fisher HL, Cohen-Woods S, Hosang GM, Korszun A, Owen M, Craddock N, Craig IW, Farmer AE, McGuffin P, Uher R
J Affect Disord 2013 Feb;145(1):136-41
BACKGROUND: There is inconsistent evidence of interaction between stressful events and a serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in depression. Recent studies have indicated that the moderating effect of 5-HTTLPR may be strongest when adverse experiences have occurred in childhood and the depressive symptoms persist over time. However, it is unknown whether this gene-environment interaction is present for recurrent depressive disorder and different forms of maltreatment. Therefore, patients with recurrent clinically diagnosed depression and controls screened for the absence of depression were utilised to examine the moderating effect of 5-HTTLPR on associations between specific forms of childhood adversity and recurrent depression.
METHOD: A sample of 227 recurrent unipolar depression cases and 228 never psychiatrically ill controls completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire to assess exposure to sexual, physical and emotional abuse, physical and emotional neglect in childhood. DNA extracted from blood or cheek swabs was genotyped for the short (s) and long (l) alleles of 5-HTTLPR.
RESULTS: All forms of childhood maltreatment were reported as more severe by cases than controls. There was no direct association between 5-HTTLPR and depression. Significant interactions with additive and recessive 5-HTTLPR genetic models were found for overall severity of maltreatment, sexual abuse and to a lesser degree for physical neglect, but not other maltreatment types.
LIMITATIONS: The cross-sectional design limits causal inference. Retrospective report of childhood adversity may have reduced the accuracy of the findings.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides support for the role of interplay between 5-HTTLPR and a specific early environmental risk in recurrent depressive disorder.