Rearing condition and rh5-HTTLPR interact to influence limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to stress in infant macaques.

Laboratory of Clinical Studies, National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Poolesville, Maryland 20837, USA.
Biological Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 9.47). 05/2004; 55(7):733-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2003.12.008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In humans and macaques, a promoter polymorphism that decreases transcription of the serotonin transporter gene is associated with anxiety. Serotonin transporter gene disruption in rodents produces anxious animals with exaggerated limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (LHPA) responses to stress. We wanted to determine whether serotonin transporter gene promoter variation (rh-5HTTLPR) and rearing condition would interact to influence endocrine responses to stress in infant rhesus macaques.
Animals were reared with their mothers (MR, n = 141) or in peer-only groups (PR, n = 67). At 6 months of age, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol levels were determined at baseline and during separation stress. Serotonin transporter genotype (l/l and l/s) was determined with polymerase chain reaction followed by gel electrophoresis.
Cortisol levels increased during separation, and there was a main effect of rearing condition, with decreased cortisol levels among PR macaques. Animals with l/s rh5-HTTLPR genotypes had higher ACTH levels than did l/l animals. Adrenocorticotropic hormone levels increased during separation, and there was a separation x rearing x rh5-HTTLPR interaction, such that PR-l/s animals had higher ACTH levels during separation than did other animals studied.
These data demonstrate that serotonin transporter gene variation affects LHPA axis activity and that the influence of rh5-HTTLPR on hormonal responses during stress is modulated by early experience.

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