Convergent genetic modulation of the endocrine stress response involves polymorphic variations of 5-HTT, COMT and MAOA

Mol Psychiatry. 2007 May;12(5):483-90. doi: 10.1038/ Epub 2007 Mar 6.


Highly prevalent stress-related disorders such as major depression (MD) are characterised by a dysregulation of the neuroendocrine system. Although heritability for these disorders is high, the role of genes in the underlying pathophysiology is poorly understood. Here, we show that polymorphic variations in genes coding for serotonin transporter (5-HTT), catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) and monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) as well as sex differences influence the regulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis response to acute psychological and endocrine challenges. In our sample, the effects of COMT on the release of adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH) depend on the presence of the low-expression MAOA variant in the same individual. By including individuals varying in their degree of susceptibility to MD, we showed evidence of interactions between 5-HTT and MD susceptibility in baseline cortisol, and between MAOA and MD susceptibility in baseline ACTH measures, indicating a role for these genotypes in stable-state endocrine regulation. Collectively, these results indicate that the simultaneous investigation of multiple monoaminergic genes in interaction with gender have to be measured to understand the endocrine regulation of stress. These findings point towards a genetic susceptibility to stress-related disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism
  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Monoamine Oxidase / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism


  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Hydrocortisone