Aggression and anger-related traits associated with a polymorphism of the tryptophan hydroxylase gene

Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Mar 1;45(5):603-14. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(98)00375-8.


Background: Central nervous system (CNS) serotonergic activity correlates inversely with human aggressive behavior, and individual differences in aggressive disposition are at least partially heritable. This study was conducted to evaluate the possible association between measures of antagonistic behavior and an intronic polymorphism of the gene coding for tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH), the rate-limiting enzyme in serotonin biosynthesis.

Methods: Locally recruited men and women (n = 251) were genotyped for the A218C polymorphism located in intron 7 of the TPH gene. All subjects were administered standard interview and questionnaire indices of aggression and anger-related traits of personality; in a portion of subjects, CNS serotonergic activity was assessed by neuropsychopharmacologic challenge (prolactin response to fenfluramine hydrochloride).

Results: Persons having any TPH U allele scored significantly higher on measures of aggression and tendency to experience unprovoked anger and were more likely to report expressing their anger outwardly than individuals homozygous for the alternate L allele. In men, but not women, peak prolactin response to fenfluramine was also attenuated among subjects having any U allele, relative to LL homozygotes.

Conclusions: Individual differences in aggressive disposition are associated with an intronic polymorphism of the TPH gene in a nonpatient sample of community-derived volunteers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Alleles
  • Anger*
  • Female
  • Fenfluramine / blood
  • Fenfluramine / pharmacology
  • Genotype
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Disorders / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • Psychological Tests
  • Serotonin / genetics
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament / physiology
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / genetics*


  • Fenfluramine
  • Serotonin
  • Prolactin
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase