The long rather than the short allele of 5-HTTLPR predisposes Han Chinese to anxiety and reduced connectivity between prefrontal cortex and amygdala
The short allele of the serotonin-transporter gene is associated with higher risk for anxiety and depression in Caucasians, but this association is still unclear in Asians. Here, we addressed this issue using behavioral and multi-modal MRI approaches in a large group of healthy Han Chinese participants (n = 233). In contrast to findings in Caucasians, we found that long-allele (L) carriers had higher anxiety scores. In another group (n = 64) experiencing significant levels of depression or anxiety, the L-allele frequency was also significantly higher. In healthy participants, L-carriers had reduced functional and anatomical connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex (PFC), which was correlated with anxiety or depression scores. Our findings demonstrated that in Chinese Han participants, in contrast to Caucasians, the L-allele confers vulnerability to anxiety or depression and weakens top-down emotional control between the PFC and amygdala. Therefore, ethnic background should be taken into account in generelated studies and their potential clinical applications.