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Promoter polymorphism in the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene is significantly associated with leukocyte telomere length in Han Chinese.

Authors: Ping P. Li, Tiantian T. Liu, Jiajia J. Liu, Qing Q. Zhang, Fenglan F. Lou, Feng F. Kong, Guanghui G. Cheng, Magnus M. Björkholm, Chengyun C. Zheng, Dawei D. Xu
Published: 04/07/2014, PloS one


The serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT)-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) plays an important role in modulating mood and behavior by regulating 5-HTT expression and thereby controlling the concentration of serotonin (5-HT) in brain synapses: The homozygous shorter allele (S/S) in 5-HTTLPR results in lower 5-HTT expression coupled with stronger psycho-pathological reactions to stressful experiences compared to the homozygous long (L/L) and heterozygous (S/L) alleles. Psychological insults and mood disorders have been shown to cause accelerated telomere shortening, a marker of biological aging, however, it is currently unclear whether the allelic variants of 5-HTTLPR affect telomere length (TL) in the healthy population without mood disorders. In the present study, we determined the relationship between TL and the 5-HTTLPR variants in healthy Han Chinese. The 5-HTTLPR genotyping and leukocyte TL analysis of 280 young female Han Chinese freshmen showed a significantly shorter TL in 149 of them carrying the 5-HTTLPR S/S version compared to those (131) with the L/S or L/S plus L/L genotypes (mean ± SD, 0.533±0.241 for S/S vs 0.607±0.312 for L/S, P  =  0.034; or vs 0.604±0.313 for L/S plus L/L, P  =  0.038). Similar results were achieved in the other cohort including 220 adult healthy individuals of different age, gender and profession (0.691±0.168 for S/S vs 0.729±0.211 for L/S, P  =  0.046, or vs 0.725±0.213 for L/S plus L/L, P  =  0.039). Taken together, shorter leukocyte TL is significantly associated with the 5-HTTLPR S/S allelic variant, which may be implicated in psychological stress-related health problems.

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