The study of functionally relevant biological effects of serotonin transporter gene promoter region (5-HTTLPR) polymorphisms is especially important given the current controversy about the clinical relevance of these polymorphisms. Here we report an intrinsic immunobiological difference between individuals carrying two short (SS) versus long (LL) 5-HTTLPR alleles, that is observed in healthy subjects reporting low exposure to life stress. Given that 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms are thought to influence susceptibility to depression and are associated with robust neurobiological effects, that depression is associated with higher pro-inflammatory and lower anti-inflammatory cytokines, and that acute stressors increase circulating concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines, we hypothesized that compared to LL individuals, SS individuals may show a pro-inflammatory bias under resting conditions and/or during stress. 15 LL and 11 SS individuals participated in the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Serum IL-6 and IL-10 were quantified at baseline and 30, 60, 90, and 120min after beginning the 20-min stress test. Compared to LL individuals, SS individuals showed a higher IL-6/IL-10 ratio at baseline and during stress. Importantly, this pro-inflammatory bias was observed despite both groups being healthy, reporting similar intensities of stress and negative emotionality during the TSST, and reporting similar low exposures to early and recent life stress. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a pro-inflammatory bias/phenotype in individuals carrying the SS genotype of 5-HTTLPR. Thus, healthy SS individuals may be chronically exposed to a pro-inflammatory physiological burden under resting and stress conditions, which could increase their vulnerability to disorders like depression and other diseases that can be facilitated/exacerbated by a chronic pro-inflammatory state.
2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.