The 5-HTTLPR polymorphism, early and recent life stress, and cognitive endophenotypes of depression

Cogn Emot. 2014;28(7):1149-63. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2013.873018. Epub 2014 Jan 17.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Attention
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Cognition*
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Endophenotypes*
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Theory of Mind
  • White People / genetics
  • White People / psychology
  • Young Adult


  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins