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Author Notes:

K. McCormack: Spelman College, 350 Spelman Lane, Box 209, Atlanta, GA 30314, USA. Fax: +1 404 270 5632. kmccormack@spelman.edu

We thank Richelle Fulks and Anne Graff for their technical assistance; Paul Plotsky for his support of this project; and the members of the NIMH “Early Experience, Stress and Prevention Science Network” (MH65046) for stimulating discussion of this research.

We also thank Dr. James Ritchie's laboratory at Emory University for their assistance with ACTH and cortisol assays.

Subjects:

Research Funding:

This work was supported by NIH grants MH065046 and MH58922 (MMS), MH62577 and MH63097 (DM), MD000215 (KM); and RR-00165 to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center; as well as by a FIRST fellowship (NIH K-12 grant GM00680 to KM); a NARSAD Young Investigator Award (MMS); and NIAAA Intramural funds.

Keywords:

  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Endocrinology & Metabolism
  • 5-HTTLPR
  • rh5-HTTLPR
  • Serotonin transporter
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Child maltreatment
  • Maternal behavior
  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Stress reactivity
  • Genetic effects
  • Early experience
  • PITUITARY-ADRENAL AXIS
  • ANXIETY-RELATED TRAITS
  • MONKEYS MACACA-MULATTA
  • MALTREATED CHILDREN
  • REARING CONDITION
  • EARLY EXPERIENCE
  • HPA AXIS
  • INTERGENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION
  • FUNCTIONAL POLYMORPHISM
  • PROMOTER POLYMORPHISM

Serotonin transporter gene variation, infant abuse, and responsiveness to stress in rhesus macaque mothers and infants

Tools:

Journal Title:

Hormones and Behavior

Volume:

Volume 55, Number 4

Publisher:

, Pages 538-547

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review

Abstract:

A functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) gene has been associated with variation in anxiety and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function in humans and rhesus macaques. Individuals carrying the short allele are at a higher risk for developmental psychopathology, and this risk is magnified in short allele carriers who have experienced early life stress. This study investigated the relationship between 5-HTTLPR allelic variation, infant abuse, and behavioral and hormonal responses to stress in rhesus macaques. Subjects were 10 abusive mothers and their infants, and 10 nonabusive mother-infant pairs. Mothers and infants were genotyped for the rh5-HTTLPR, and studied in the first 6 months of infant life. For mothers and infants, we measured social group behavior, behavioral responses to handling procedures, and plasma concentrations of ACTH and cortisol under basal conditions and in response to stress tests. The proportion of individuals carrying the short rh5-HTTLPR allele was significantly higher among abusive mothers than controls. Among mothers and infants, the short allele was associated with higher basal cortisol levels and greater hormonal stress responses in the infants. In addition, infants who carried the short rh5-HTTLPR allele had higher anxiety scores than infants homozygous for the long allele. The rh5-HTTLPR genotype also interacted with early adverse experience to impact HPA axis function in the infants. These results are consistent with those of previous studies which demonstrate associations between serotonergic activity and anxiety and stress reactivity, and add additional evidence suggesting that genetic variation in serotonergic function may contribute to the occurrence of abusive parenting in rhesus macaques and modulate emotional behavior and HPA axis function.

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Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V. or its licensors or contributors.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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