The power of sample size and homogenous sampling: association between the 5-HTTLPR serotonin transporter polymorphism and major depressive disorder. Biol Psychiatry
Several lines of evidence indicate that abnormalities in the functioning of the central serotonergic system are involved in the pathogenesis of affective illness. A 44-base-pair insertion/deletion polymorphism in the 5' regulatory region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR), which influences expression of the serotonin transporter, has been the focus of intensive research since an initial report on an association between 5-HTTLPR and depression-related personality traits. Consistently replicated evidence for an involvement of this polymorphism in the etiology of mood disorders, particularly in major depressive disorder (MDD), remains scant. We assessed a potential association between 5-HTTLPR and MDD, using the largest reported sample to date (466 patients, 836 control subjects). Individuals were all of German descent. Patients were systematically recruited from consecutive inpatient admissions. Control subjects were drawn from random lists of the local Census Bureau and screened for psychiatric disorders. The short allele of 5-HTTLPR was significantly more frequent in patients than in control subjects (45.5% vs. 39.9%; p = .006; odds ratio = 1.26). These results support an involvement of 5-HTTLPR in the etiology of MDD. They also demonstrate that the detection of small genetic effects requires very large and homogenous samples.