Frequency of long allele in serotonin transporter gene is increased in depressed suicide victims

Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Jul 15;46(2):196-201. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(98)00376-x.


Background: There is evidence indicating that serotonin uptake and density of 5-HT2A receptors are altered in brain regions of depressed suicide victims and in platelets of depressed suicidal subjects. The present investigation tested the hypothesis that these changes in the serotonergic system in depressed suicide victims are trait rather than state markers and associated with a polymorphism in respective candidate genes.

Methods: Two polymorphic variants (102T/C polymorphism and His452Tyr functional polymorphism) of the 5-HT2A receptor gene and a functional polymorphism in the 5' regulatory region of the 5-HT transporter gene, have been determined in genomic DNA obtained from postmortem brain samples of 24 depressed suicide victims and 31 control subjects of the same ethnic background. In a subset of subjects, density (Bmax) of 5-HT uptake sites (labeled with 3H-paroxetine) and of 5-HT2A receptors (labeled with 3H-ketanserin) was also determined in prefrontal cortex samples.

Results: The major finding of this study was a significantly higher frequency of the 5-HT transporter gene long (L) allele (chi 2 = 3.9, df = 1; p = .048) in depressed suicides. No significant differences between suicides and controls were observed for the 102T/C polymorphism and His452Tyr polymorphism of 5-HT2A receptor gene. The density of 3H-paroxetine binding sites tended to be higher in subjects expressing the short (S) allele of 5-HT transporter gene. Furthermore, there was a significant difference in serotonin transporter binding sites between the genotype S/S and combined genotypes S/L and L/L.

Conclusions: Our finding provides the first evidence suggesting that a functional polymorphism in the regulatory region of serotonin transporter gene may be associated with suicide in depressed subjects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alleles*
  • Binding Sites
  • Biological Transport / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Count
  • Culture Techniques
  • DNA / analysis
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Serotonin / genetics*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Suicide / psychology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Serotonin
  • DNA