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Effects Of Genes On Personality Clarified Further

Work by a Swedish group (Karolinska Institute) shows for the first time that a gene encoding an intracellular transcription factor has effects on personality traits. Meanwhile, independent work by a group of Israeli scientists (Ben Gurion University of the Negev) supports a role for the serotonin transporter gene in anxiety traits.

The work is reported in two articles in Molecular Psychiatry that examine the effects of genes on personality.

The first article is, "A polymorphic region in the human transcription factor AP-2beta gene is associated with specific personality traits." Authors are M Damberg, H Garpenstrand, J Alfredsson, J Ekblom, K Forslund, G Rylander, L Oreland of the Department of Neuroscience, Unit of Pharmacology, Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden and the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.

The authors suggest a novel approach in the elucidation of the genetic part of psychiatric disorders and personality; i.e., to identify transcription factor genes as candidate genes in psychiatric disorders and personality.

In support of this notion, they show that the personality traits muscular tension, guilt, somatic anxiety, psychasthenia and indirect aggression, as estimated by the Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP), are significantly related to transcription factor AP-2beta genotype.

Since important genes encoding proteins in the dopaminergic and serotonergic system have binding sites for AP-2 in their regulatory regions, one might speculate that the expression of different isoforms of AP-2 influences mood and personality, not only due to their role during the development of the brain, but also due to their function during adulthood.

The second article is, "Association and linkage of anxiety-related traits with a functional polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene regulatory region in Israeli sibling pairs."

Its authors include Y Osher of Beer Sheva Mental Health Center, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel; D Hamer of the National Cancer Institute, USA; Soroka Medical Center; and J Benjamin of the Department of Psychiatry, Ben Gurion University.

The neurotransmitter serotonin is thought to play a key role in anxiety and depression and is the target for a very popular class of psychiatric drugs. This study examined the relationship between a functional polymorphism in the regulatory region of the serotonin transporter gene and anxiety-related personality traits in normal sibling pairs from Israel.

Using two different analytical methods -- one which examines the overall relationship between these traits and individuals with differing forms of the gene, and another which studies the differences between siblings who have different forms of the gene -- additional evidence was obtained that this gene affects normal temperament and personality traits.

Persons who have the "short" form of the gene tend to be more anxious, worried, fearful, pessimistic and cautious than people who have only the "long" form.

Molecular Psychiatry is published by the Nature Publishing Group. Its editor is Julio Licinio, M.D., Director, Clinical Pharmacology Program; Associate Program Director, General Clinical Research Center; Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Senior Research Scientist, Neuropsychiatric Institute, Brain Research Institute, UCLA School of Medicine.

[Contact: Professor Lars Oreland, Dr. Jonathan Benjamin, Julio Licinio M.D.]






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