Background: Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response (ASR) is an operational measure of sensorimotor gating and a promising endophenotype of schizophrenia. We have recently shown that the linked serotonin-2A receptor (5-HT(2A)R) A-1438 G and T102C polymorphisms modulate PPI in schizophrenia patients. Moreover, it was shown that genetic variation in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and the neuregulin-1 (NRG-1) proteins influences PPI in schizophrenia patients and healthy volunteers. Therefore, we aimed to replicate these results and investigated the impact of the related polymorphisms on PPI in healthy human volunteers.
Methods: We analyzed the 5-HT(2A)R A-1438 G/T102C (rs6311/rs6313), the COMT Val158Met (rs4680), and the NRG-1 Arg38Gln (rs3924999) polymorphisms, assessing startle reactivity, habituation, and PPI of ASR in 107 healthy Caucasian volunteers.
Results: Subjects homozygous for the 5-HT(2A)R T102C-T/A-1438 G-A allele showed increased PPI levels. In particular, male subjects with the COMT Met158Met-genotype also showed elevated PPI. The NRG-1 Arg38Gln genotype did not have a significant impact on PPI. Startle reactivity was not affected by any of the investigated polymorphisms.
Conclusions: We confirmed in an independent sample of healthy volunteers that PPI is influenced by genetic variation in the 5-HT(2A)R gene. The influence of the COMT Val158Met genotype on PPI appears to be sex-specific. These results underscore the significance of the serotonin and dopamine systems in the modulation of sensorimotor gating.