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The triallelic serotonin transporter gene polymorphism is associated with depressive symptoms in adults with chronic pain

Authors Hooten WM, Townsend CO, Sletten CD

Received 8 February 2017

Accepted for publication 7 April 2017

Published 9 May 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 1071—1078


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr E Alfonso Romero-Sandoval

W Michael Hooten,1 Cynthia O Townsend,2 Christopher D Sletten3

1Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Mayo Clinic Rochester, Rochester, MN, 2Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Scottsdale, AZ, 3Department of Pain Medicine, Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville, FL, USA

Background: The serotonin (5-HT) transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) moderates the relationship between stressful life events and depression. Given the high prevalence of depression in chronic pain, the primary aim of this preliminary study was to investigate the associations between the 5-HTTLPR and the severity of depressive symptoms in a cohort of adults with chronic pain.
Methods: Adults with chronic pain who were consecutively admitted to an outpatient pain rehabilitation program and met inclusion criteria were recruited for study participation (n=277). Individuals were genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR (including rs25531) and categorized as high, intermediate, or low expressors of the 5-HT transporter. The severity of depressive symptoms at admission was measured by using the Center for Epidemiologic Depression scale (CES-D).
Results: The distribution of the high-, intermediate-, and low-expressing genotypes was 61 (22%), 149 (54%), and 67 (24%), respectively. The Hardy–Weinberg P-value was 0.204, which indicated no departure from equilibrium. A main effect of 5-HTTLPR was observed for depressive symptoms (P=0.040) where Center for Epidemiologic Depression scale (CES-D) scores were significantly greater in the low-expressing group compared to the high- (P=0.019) and intermediate (P=0.029)-expressing groups. In multivariate multinomial logistic regression analysis adjusted for age, sex, pain severity, pain catastrophizing, and pain anxiety, greater CES-D scores were significantly associated with the 5-HTTLPR low-expressing group compared to the high-expressing group (P=0.023), but not for the low-expressing group compared to the intermediate-expressing group (P=0.056).
Conclusion: These preliminary findings suggest that the triallelic 5-HTTLPR could influence the severity of depressive symptoms in adults with chronic pain. Individuals with chronic pain may be particularly vulnerable to the moderating effects of 5-HTTLPR due to high levels of pain-related stress that are inherently present in this population.

Keywords: serotonin transporter gene, chronic pain, depression

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