The 5-HTTLPR polymorphism modulates the influence on environmental stressors on peripartum depression symptoms

Divya Mehta, Carina Quast, Peter A Fasching, Anna Seifert, Franziska Voigt, Matthias W Beckmann, Florian Faschingbauer, Pascal Burger, Arif B Ekici, Johannes Kornhuber, Elisabeth B Binder, Tamme W Goecke
Journal of Affective Disorders 2012, 136 (3): 1192-7

BACKGROUND: Maternal depression during the peripartum period has an incidence of about 13%. Individuals with specific genetic predispositions are more vulnerable to stressful life events suggesting that exploration of gene-environmental pathways might facilitate the identification of risk factors for peripartum depression. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of stressful life events in combination with the serotonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR polymorphism on peripartum depressive symptoms.

METHODS: In a non-psychiatric cohort of 419 Caucasians, the severity of depression was assessed prospectively during pregnancy (3rd trimester) and the postpartum period (2-3 days and 6-8 months) using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Satisfaction with the partner and exposure to negative life events were evaluated using self-report questionnaires and the genotype of the 5-HTTLPR was assessed. Repeated measures generalized linear models were used to investigate the gene-environment interaction on depressive symptoms across late pregnancy and the postpartum period.

RESULTS: The 5-HTTLPR S-allele carrier status predicted late postpartum depressive symptom severity only in the presence of negative life events. This interaction was not observed for depressive symptoms during the 3rd trimester or the early postpartum. In addition, S-allele carrier status increased the negative effects of dissatisfaction with the current partner on depressive symptoms in the late postpartum period.

CONCLUSIONS: In this non-psychiatric cohort, the 5-HTTLPR interacts with both lifetime and current stressors to influence depressive symptoms in the late post partum period. These findings could have clinical implications by allowing identification of women at higher risk for developing postpartum depressive symptoms.

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