In a population-based association study, we tested the hypothesis that allelic variants of the human serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene confer susceptibility to mood disorders. Both a biallelic repeat polymorphism in the 5' promotor region that differentially modulates gene expression and a second intron variable-number-tandem-repeat (VNTR) marker were genotyped in 294 controls and 115 patients with mood disorders. Subjects were of West European descent and included 36 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and 79 patients with bipolar I disorder (BD). No significant differences in genotype or allele frequencies were found at either locus between controls and combined patients, nor between controls and MDD or BD patients separately. Thus, our data do not support the association between depressive disorder and a nine-repeat allelic variant of the 5-HTT VNTR marker recently reported by Ogilvie et al. (Lancet 347:731-733, 1996). More importantly, no association between alleles conveying functional differences in 5-HTT gene expression and MDD or BD could be found. Taken together, our data suggest that the 5-HTT gene is not commonly involved in the susceptibility to mood disorders.