Background: The serotonin (5-HT) transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) moderates the relationship between stressful life events and depression. Given the high prevalence of depression in chronic pain, the primary aim of this preliminary study was to investigate the associations between the 5-HTTLPR and the severity of depressive symptoms in a cohort of adults with chronic pain. Methods: Adults with chronic pain who were consecutively admitted to an outpatient pain rehabilitation program and met inclusion criteria were recruited for study participation (n=277). Individuals were genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR (including rs25531) and categorized as high, intermediate, or low expressors of the 5-HT transporter. The severity of depressive symptoms at admission was measured by using the Center for Epidemiologic Depression scale (CES-D). Results: The distribution of the high-, intermediate-, and low-expressing genotypes was 61 (22%), 149 (54%), and 67 (24%), respectively. The Hardy–Weinberg P-value was 0.204, which indicated no departure from equilibrium. A main effect of 5-HTTLPR was observed for depressive symptoms (P=0.040) where Center for Epidemiologic Depression scale (CES-D) scores were significantly greater in the low-expressing group compared to the high- (P=0.019) and intermediate (P=0.029)-expressing groups. In multivariate multinomial logistic regression analysis adjusted for age, sex, pain severity, pain catastrophizing, and pain anxiety, greater CES-D scores were significantly associated with the 5-HTTLPR low-expressing group compared to the high-expressing group (P=0.023), but not for the low-expressing group compared to the intermediate-expressing group (P=0.056). Conclusion: These preliminary findings suggest that the triallelic 5-HTTLPR could influence the severity of depressive symptoms in adults with chronic pain. Individuals with chronic pain may be particularly vulnerable to the moderating effects of 5-HTTLPR due to high levels of pain-related stress that are inherently present in this population.
- Chronic pain
- Serotonin transporter gene
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine