Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is one of the most prevalent and costly of all psychiatric disorders. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA)-axis, which regulates the hormonal response to stress, has been found to be disrupted in depression. HPA dysregulation may represent an important risk factor for depression. To examine a possible genetic underpinning of this risk factor without the confound of current or lifetime depression, we genotyped 84 never-disordered young girls, over a third of whom were at elevated risk for depression, to assess the association between a polymorphism in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene and diurnal variation in HPA-axis activity. This 5-HTT-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) has been previously found to interact with stress to increase risk for depression. We found 5-HTTLPR to be significantly associated with diurnal cortisol levels: girls who were homozygous for the short-allele had higher levels of waking (but not afternoon or evening) cortisol than did their long-allele counterparts. This finding suggests that genetic susceptibility to HPA-axis dysregulation, especially apparent in levels of waking cortisol, is detectable in individuals as young as 9 years of age.
- Diurnal cortisol
- Serotonin transporter
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems