Interaction of the 5-HTTLPR and childhood trauma influences memory bias in healthy individuals

J Affect Disord. 2015 Nov 1;186:83-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.06.008. Epub 2015 Jul 21.


The tendency to recall more negative and less positive information has been frequently related to the genetic susceptibility to depression. This memory bias may be associated with depression candidate genes especially in individuals who experienced stressful childhood events. The serotonin transporter gene, SLC6A4/5-HTT, regulates the reuptake of serotonin. The 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in the gene's promoter region has a short (S) and a long (L) allele, of which L contains a further SNP (rs25531), resulting in a triallelic polymorphism: La, Lg, and S. Both S and Lg result in increased serotonin signaling (to simplify, we refer to both alleles as 'S'), which in turn appears associated with depression vulnerability, specifically in individuals with stressful events. In non-depressed individuals (N=1083), we examined the interaction between the 5-HTTLPR genotype (LaLa, SLa, and SS) and stressful childhood events in association with explicit verbal memory bias (positive, negative). Two types of stressful childhood events were studied, namely childhood adverse events (e.g. parental loss) and interpersonal traumatic childhood events (e.g. abuse). Less positive memory bias was found for individuals with the SS genotype who had experienced interpersonal childhood traumatic events. No general association of genotype with memory bias was found, nor was there a significant interaction between genotype and childhood adverse events. Our results suggest that the depression-susceptibility genotype of the 5-HTTLPR is associated with depressive information processing styles when occurring in combination with traumatic childhood events. Tailoring treatment to specific risk profiles based on genetic susceptibility and childhood stress could be promising.

Keywords: 5-HTTLPR; Childhood adversity; Childhood trauma; Depression; Life events; Memory bias.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events / psychology*
  • Alleles
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Prejudice / psychology
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / physiology*


  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins