Common HTR2A variants and 5-HTTLPR are not associated with human in vivo serotonin 2A receptor levels

Hum Brain Mapp. 2020 Jul 22. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25138. Online ahead of print.


The serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) is implicated in the pathophysiology and treatment of various psychiatric disorders. [18 F]altanserin and [11 C]Cimbi-36 positron emission tomography (PET) allow for high-resolution imaging of 5-HT2AR in the living human brain. Cerebral 5-HT2AR binding is strongly genetically determined, though the impact of specific variants is poorly understood. Candidate gene studies suggest that HTR2A single nucleotide polymorphisms including rs6311/rs6313, rs6314, and rs7997012 may influence risk for psychiatric disorders and mediate treatment response. Although known to impact in vitro expression of 5-HT2AR or other serotonin (5-HT) proteins, their effect on human in vivo brain 5-HT2AR binding has as of yet been insufficiently studied. We thus assessed the extent to which these variants and the commonly studied 5-HTTLPR predict neocortex in vivo 5-HT2AR binding in healthy adult humans. We used linear regression analyses and likelihood ratio tests in 197 subjects scanned with [18 F]altanserin or [11 C]Cimbi-36 PET. Although we observed genotype group differences in 5-HT2AR binding of up to ~10%, no genetic variants were statistically significantly predictive of 5-HT2AR binding in what is the largest human in vivo 5-HT2AR imaging genetics study to date. Thus, in vitro and post mortem results suggesting effects on 5-HT2AR expression did not carry over to the in vivo setting. To any extent these variants might affect clinical risk, our findings do not support that 5-HT2AR binding mediates such effects. Our observations indicate that these individual variants do not significantly contribute to genetic load on human in vivo 5-HT2AR binding.

Keywords: 5-HTTLPR; positron emission tomography; serotonin 2A receptor; single nucleotide polymorphism.