Association between serotonin transporter genotype, brain structure and adolescent-onset major depressive disorder: a longitudinal prospective study

Keriann Little, Craig A Olsson, Sarah Whittle, George Youssef, Michelle L Byrne, Julian G Simmons, Murat Yucel, Debra L Foley, Nicholas Brian Allen

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The extent to which brain structural abnormalities might serve as neurobiological endophenotypes that mediate the link between the variation in the promoter of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) and depression is currently unknown. We therefore investigated whether variation in hippocampus, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and anterior cingulate cortex volumes at age 12 years mediated a putative association between 5-HTTLPR genotype and first onset of major depressive disorder (MDD) between age 13?19 years, in a longitudinal study of 174 adolescents (48 males). Increasing copies of S-alleles were found to predict smaller left hippocampal volume, which in turn was associated with increased risk of experiencing a first onset of MDD. Increasing copies of S-alleles also predicted both smaller left and right medial OFC volumes, although neither left nor right medial OFC volumes were prospectively associated with a first episode of MDD during adolescence. The findings therefore suggest that structural abnormalities in the left hippocampus may be present prior to the onset of depression during adolescence and may be partly responsible for an indirect association between 5-HTTLPR genotype and depressive illness. 5-HTTLPR genotype may also impact upon other regions of the brain, such as the OFC, but structural differences in these regions in early adolescence may not necessarily alter the risk for onset of depression during later adolescence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere445
Number of pages8
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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