Is serotonin transporter genotype associated with epigenetic susceptibility or vulnerability? Examination of the impact of socioeconomic status risk on African American youth

Steven R.H. Beach, Gene H. Brody, Man Kit Lei, Sangjin Kim, Juan Cui, Robert A. Philibert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

We hypothesized that presence of the short allele in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter would moderate the effect of early cumulative socioeconomic status (SES) risk on epigenetic change among African American youth. Contrasting hypotheses regarding the shape of the interaction effect were generated using vulnerability and susceptibility frameworks and applied to data from a sample of 388 African American youth. Early cumulative SES risk assessed at 11-13 years based on parent report interacted with presence of the short allele to predict differential methylation assessed at age 19. Across multiple tests, a differential susceptibility perspective rather than a diathesis-stress framework best fit the data for genes associated with depression, consistently demonstrating greater epigenetic response to early cumulative SES risk among short allele carriers. A pattern consistent with greater impact among short allele carriers also was observed using all cytosine nucleotide-phosphate- guanine nucleotide sites across the genome that were differentially affected by early cumulative SES risk. We conclude that the short allele is associated with increased responsiveness to early cumulative SES risk among African American youth, leading to epigenetic divergence for depression-related genes in response to exposure to heightened SES risk among short allele carriers in a for better or for worse pattern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-304
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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