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Background: Serotonergic (5-HT) dysfunction has been implicated in the etiology of both behavioral disinhibition (BD) and negative affect (NA). This work extends our previous finding of relationships between whole blood 5-HT and both BD and NA in pubescent, but not prepubescent, children of alcoholics and continues examination of a hypothesized role of 5-HT dysfunction in alcoholism risk. The long and short (L and S) variants of the 5-HT transporter gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) are responsible for differing transcriptional efficiencies in 5-HT uptake. Although associations have been found between the SS 5-HTTLPR genotype and severe alcoholism and neuroticism, recent reports describe relationships between the LL genotype and both low level of response to alcohol and alcoholism diagnosis and a predominance of the LL genotype in early-onset alcoholics.
Methods: This report is from an ongoing prospective study of the development of risk for alcoholism and other problematic outcomes in a sample of families classified by father’s alcoholism subtype. This study examines relationships between 5-HTTLPR genotype and both child BD (Child Behavior Checklist Aggressive Behavior) and NA (Child Behavior Checklist Anxious/Depressed) in offspring from 47 families.
Results: Results showed significantly higher levels of BD and NA in the 16 children with the LL genotype than the 46 SS or SL children.
Conclusions: Behaviors of undercontrol, which occur at increased rates in children of alcoholics, may be genetically influenced through the regulation of the 5-HT transporter. Due to the small sample size and the preliminary nature of our findings, replication is necessary.