A functional polymorphism in the regulatory region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) is considered to be a plausible candidate gene for anxiety-related personality traits and for alcoholism. Empirical support for the association between 5-HTTLPR and psychological traits has been somewhat inconsistent; however, observations of the functional dominance of the low-activity s-allele over the l-allele have been more consistent. When studying the influence of particular genes on psychological traits, it seems useful also to assess more biological intermediate traits that may mediate the effects of those genes on the traits of interest. The present study examined relationships between 5-HTTLPR genotype, whole blood serotonin (5-HT) level, and platelet 5-HT binding in 150 Caucasian subjects from 50 biological families. Individuals with the s-allele had lower average platelet 5-HT binding availability than those with the l/l genotype (P<0.025). Whole blood 5-HT level was not associated with 5-HTTLPR genotype. In adult men, those with the s-allele had higher mean scores on the NEO-FFI personality trait of openness than did those with the l/l genotype (P=0.002). The effect was not statistically significant in women (P=0.42), although it was in the same direction. Our findings do not support an association of 5-HTTLPR genotype with alcoholism diagnosis, alcoholism subtype, or the personality trait of neuroticism. The results of this pilot study suggest that further work should examine the mediation of the genetic effects on personality traits by biochemical measures and their moderation by gender.
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