Studies associating interactions of 5-HTTLPR and life adversities with depression have yielded equivocal results. Studying endophenotypes may constitute a more powerful approach. In the current study, it was assessed whether interactions of 5-HTTLPR with childhood emotional abuse (CEA) and recent negative life events (RNLE) affect possible cognitive endophenotypes of depression, namely, attention-allocation bias and the ability to recognise others' mind states in 215 young adults of North-West European descent. The ability to classify others' negative mind states was found to be increased with increasing RNLE in carriers of low-expressing Serotonin Transporter Linked Polymorphic Region (5-HTTLPR) alleles. Carriers of two low-expressing alleles also preferentially oriented attention towards negative information. Gene-environment interactions were not observed for attention allocation bias. No effects involving CEA were observed. These results suggest that low-expressing 5-HTTLPR alleles may confer increased risk for depression through enhanced recognition of negative facial expressions following RNLE.
Keywords: 5-HTTLPR; Cognitive bias; Depression; Endophenotype; Gene-environment interaction.