Genetic variation in human NPY expression affects stress response and emotion

Zhifeng Zhou, Guanshan Zhu, Ahmad R. Hariri, Mary Anne Enoch, David Scott, Rajita Sinha, Matti Virkkunen, Deborah C. Mash, Robert H. Lipsky, Xian Zhang Hu, Colin A. Hodgkinson, Ke Xu, Beata Buzas, Qiaoping Yuan, Pei Hong Shen, Robert E. Ferrell, Stephen B. Manuck, Sarah M. Brown, Richard L. Hauger, Christian S. StohlerJon Kar Zubieta, David Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

324 Scopus citations


Understanding inter-individual differences in stress response requires the explanation of genetic influences at multiple phenotypic levels, including complex behaviours and the metabolic responses of brain regions to emotional stimuli. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is anxiolytic and its release is induced by stress. NPY is abundantly expressed in regions of the limbic system that are implicated in arousal and in the assignment of emotional valences to stimuli and memories. Here we show that haplotype-driven NPY expression predicts brain responses to emotional and stress challenges and also inversely correlates with trait anxiety. NPY haplotypes predicted levels of NPY messenger RNA in post-mortem brain and lymphoblasts, and levels of plasma NPY. Lower haplotype-driven NPY expression predicted higher emotion-induced activation of the amygdala, as well as diminished resiliency as assessed by pain/stress-induced activations of endogenous opioid neurotransmission in various brain regions. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP rs16147) located in the promoter region alters NPY expression in vitro and seems to account for more than half of the variation in expression in vivo. These convergent findings are consistent with the function of NPY as an anxiolytic peptide and help to explain inter-individual variation in resiliency to stress, a risk factor for many diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1001
Number of pages5
Issue number7190
StatePublished - Apr 24 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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