The symptomatic profile of panic disorder is shaped by the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism

T B Lonsdorf, C Rück, J Bergström, G Andersson, A Öhman, M Schalling, N Lindefors: The symptomatic profile of panic disorder is shaped by the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism. In: Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 33 (8), pp. 1479-1483, 2009, ISSN: 02785846.


The short allele of a functional polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) promoter is associated with reduced serotonin transporter expression, lower in vivo 5-HTT binding, higher neuroticism and amygdala reactivity as well as facilitated fear conditioning and is a candidate variant for panic disorder. However, case–control studies have consistently failed to show an association between 5-HTTLPR and panic disorder. As psychiatric disorders are broadly defined phenotypes merging different symptoms to syndromes, they may not be very well suited for genetic association studies. An alternative approach is to measure symptoms along continuous symptom dimensions which may more appropriately reflect their biological underpinnings and may reveal subpopulations within clinical diagnostic groups. We recorded the symptomatic profile in 73 in panic disorder patients using observer-rated instruments (Panic Disorder Severity Scale, PDSS; Montgomery–AAsberg Depression Rating Scale, MADRS) and hypothesized more severe symptoms in patients carrying the 5-HTTLPR s-allele. We observed a strong association between bi- and triallelic 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms and the symptomatic profile. Carriers of the 5-HTTLPR s-allele suffered from most severe panic and depressive symptoms. Our data highlight the importance of defining appropriate phenotypes for psychiatric genetic studies and demonstrate that the 5-HTTLPR genotype may be related to the symptomatic profiles rather than to the vulnerability to develop panic disorder.