The association between serotonin transporter gene promotor polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and elemental mercury exposure on mood and behavior in humans

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2010;73(15):1003-20. doi: 10.1080/15287390903566591.


A functional polymorphism in the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) is reported to affect mood and behavior in humans. In this study, the effects of 5-HTTLPR polymorphism on neurobehavioral and mood domains that are known to be affected by elemental mercury (Hg degrees ) exposure in human subjects were examined. The Behavioral Evaluation for Epidemiologic Studies (BEES) test battery was administered concurrently with urine and buccal-cell collections for 164 male dentists (DD) and 101 female dental assistants (DA) with occupational exposure to Hg degrees for an average of 19 and 10 yr, respectively. Geometric mean urinary mercury (Hg) levels in DD and DA were 2.52 (2.22) microg/L and 1.98 (1.98) microg/L, respectively. Corresponding indices of chronic occupational Hg degrees exposure, weighted for historical exposure, were 1212 (1877) and 316 (429). 5-HTTLPR status was 40% and 20% wild type, 40% and 56% single allelic substitution, and 20% and 24% double allelic substitution for the two genders. DD and DA were evaluated separately. Regression analyses controlled for age, premorbid intelligence, frequency of alcohol per week, and education. 5-HTTLPR polymorphism was associated with 5 behavioral measures in DD and with 12 behavioral measures in DA. Mood scores were more consistently associated with the variant in both groups. The strongest evidence for an additive effect for urinary Hg and 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in both groups was for tests of Finger Tap(Alternate) and Hand Steadiness(Factor1). Other significant additive effects that were less consistent across groups were also observed. These results add to the growing evidence of genetic determinants of mood and behavior that potentially increase susceptibility to Hg toxicity in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Behavior / drug effects*
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Dental Assistants
  • Dentistry
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Mercury / urine
  • Mercury Poisoning, Nervous System / genetics*
  • Mercury Poisoning, Nervous System / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sensation / drug effects
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vibration
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Wechsler Scales


  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mercury