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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Genetic variations in the serotonergic system contribute to amygdala volume in humans.

  • Author(s): Li, Jin
  • Chen, Chunhui
  • Wu, Karen
  • Zhang, Mingxia
  • Zhu, Bi
  • Chen, Chuansheng
  • Moyzis, Robert K
  • Dong, Qi
  • et al.

The amygdala plays a critical role in emotion processing and psychiatric disorders associated with emotion dysfunction. Accumulating evidence suggests that amygdala structure is modulated by serotonin-related genes. However, there is a gap between the small contributions of single loci (less than 1%) and the reported 63-65% heritability of amygdala structure. To understand the "missing heritability," we systematically explored the contribution of serotonin genes on amygdala structure at the gene set level. The present study of 417 healthy Chinese volunteers examined 129 representative polymorphisms in genes from multiple biological mechanisms in the regulation of serotonin neurotransmission. A system-level approach using multiple regression analyses identified that nine SNPs collectively accounted for approximately 8% of the variance in amygdala volume. Permutation analyses showed that the probability of obtaining these findings by chance was low (p = 0.043, permuted for 1000 times). Findings showed that serotonin genes contribute moderately to individual differences in amygdala volume in a healthy Chinese sample. These results indicate that the system-level approach can help us to understand the genetic basis of a complex trait such as amygdala structure.

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