DRD4-exonIII-VNTR moderates the effect of childhood adversities on emotional resilience in young-adults

PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e20177. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020177. Epub 2011 May 27.

Abstract

Most individuals successfully maintain psychological well-being even when exposed to trauma or adversity. Emotional resilience or the ability to thrive in the face of adversity is determined by complex interactions between genetic makeup, previous exposure to stress, personality, coping style, availability of social support, etc. Recent studies have demonstrated that childhood trauma diminishes resilience in adults and affects mental health. The Dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) exon III variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) polymorphism was reported to moderate the impact of adverse childhood environment on behaviour, mood and other health-related outcomes. In this study we investigated whether DRD4-exIII-VNTR genotype moderates the effect of childhood adversities (CA) on resilience. In a representative population sample (n = 1148) aged 30-34 years, we observed an interactive effect of DRD4 genotype and CA (β = 0.132; p = 0.003) on resilience despite no main effect of the genotype when effects of age, gender and education were controlled for. The 7-repeat allele appears to protect against the adverse effect of CA since the decline in resilience associated with increased adversity was evident only in individuals without the 7-repeat allele. Resilience was also significantly associated with approach-/avoidance-related personality measures (behavioural inhibition/activation system; BIS/BAS) measures and an interactive effect of DRD4-exIII-VNTR genotype and CA on BAS was observed. Hence it is possible that approach-related personality traits could be mediating the effect of the DRD4 gene and childhood environment interaction on resilience such that when stressors are present, the 7-repeat allele influences the development of personality in a way that provides protection against adverse outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Demography
  • Exons / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minisatellite Repeats / genetics*
  • Personality
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4 / genetics*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • DRD4 protein, human
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4