Influence of 5-HTTLPR polymorphism on resting state perfusion in patients with major depression
Neuroimaging studies in major depressive disorder (MDD) have indicated dysregulation in a network involving prefrontal cortex, subgenual cingulate and the amygdalae, which is known to be modulated by serotonin. The serotonergic system is the principal target for pharmacological treatment in MDD and the functional variable serotonin promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) influences susceptibility, course and treatment response of MDD. Using data from a previously published sample of 89 MDD-patients, we examined post hoc the effect of 5-HTTLPR status on resting state perfusion, as measured with 99mTc-HMPAO-SPECT. MDD patients were stratified according to receptor polymorphism, both using a bi-allelic (group A: L/L vs. group B: S/S and S/L genotype) and a tri-allelic approach (Group A′: LA/LA vs. Group B′: non-LA/LA genotype). There were no significant differences between both subgroups regarding age, gender, severity of depression, medication, or treatment response (p > 0.1). Using the bi-allelic approach, Group B, compared to group A, revealed a significantly higher resting state perfusion in medial prefrontal cortex (pvoxel (FWE) < 0.05). Additional ROI analyses showed relative overactivity of the amygdalae in group B (pvoxel (FWE) < 0.05). Similar effects were observed in the tri-allelic approach. The opposite contrasts (Group A > Group B) revealed no significant effects. We demonstrate that in patients with MDD, 5-HTTLPR gene polymorphism modulates resting state perfusion in key structures of mood processing. While the clinical impact of these findings will need to be further investigated in larger cohort studies, the necessity to monitor and to account for individual 5-HTTLPR-status in future MDD imaging studies is highly recommended.