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Tryptophan hydroxylase-2 gene variation influences personality traits and disorders related to emotional dysregulation

Lise Gutknecht, Christian Jacob, Alexander Strobel, Claudia Kriegebaum, Johannes Müller, Yong Zeng, Christoph Markert, Andrea Escher, Jens Wendland, Andreas Reif, Rainald Mössner, Cornelius Gross, Burkhard Brocke, Klaus-Peter Lesch
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1461145706007437 309-320 First published online: 1 June 2007


Variation in the tryptophan hydroxylase-2 gene (TPH2) coding for the rate-limiting enzyme of serotonin (5-HT) synthesis in the brain modulates responses of limbic circuits to emotional stimuli and has been linked to a spectrum of clinical populations characterized by emotional dysregulation. Here, we tested a set of common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in and downstream of the transcriptional control region of TPH2 for association with personality traits and with risk for personality disorders in two cohorts comprising of 336 healthy individuals and 420 patients with personality disorders. Personality dimensions were assessed by the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) and the revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R). Personality disorders were diagnosed with the Structured Clinical Interview of DSM-IV and were allocated to clusters A, B, and C. Individual SNP and haplotype analyses revealed significant differences in genotype frequencies between controls and cluster B as well as cluster C patients, respectively. In both patient groups, we observed overrepresentation of T allele carriers of a functional polymorphism in the upstream regulatory region of TPH2 (SNP G-703T, rs4570625) which was previously shown to bias responsiveness of the amygdala, a structure critically involved in emotionality. Furthermore, significant effects of TPH2 variants on anxiety-related traits defined primarily by the TPQ Harm Avoidance were found in healthy individuals. The results link potentially functional TPH2 variants to personality traits related to emotional instability as well as to cluster B and cluster C personality disorders. These findings implicate alterations of 5-HT synthesis in emotion regulation and confirm TPH2 as a susceptibility and/or modifier gene of affective spectrum disorders.

Key words
  • Anxiety
  • emotion regulation
  • gene variation
  • personality disorders
  • personality traits
  • serotonin
  • tryptophan hydroxylase 2