News Release

A genetic basis for diet-induced relapse of depression

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Molecular Psychiatry

A temporary alteration of serotonin activity can be obtained by acutely and reversibly lowering the blood levels of tryptophan (an amino acid precursor of the synthesis of serotonin). In several studies, acute depletion of trypotphan causes depressive symptoms in some but not all patients who have improved from at least one episode of major depression. This study investigated the relationship between depressive symptom during tryptophan depletion and the presence of a variation of the gene encoding for a protein that transports sertonin into neurons (SLC6A4). Forty three subjects who had improved from a major depressive episode and then underwent TRP depletion, were invited to participate in genetic testing. Depressive symptoms were measured with a highly standardized depression rating scale. Although during tryptopan depletion subjects experience different degrees of depressive responses, there was a clear indication that subjects whose genes predicted increased serotonin transporter activity had a lot more depression than people whose genes predicted less serotonin transporter activity. This study supports the current belief that serotonin closely regulates mood, and supports the notion that subjects with certain genetic markers may have greater vulnerability to experiencing depression.


Citation source: Molecular Psychiatry 2002, Volume 7, number 2, pages 213-216.

For further information on this work, please contact Dr. Francisco Moreno, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, 1501 N Campbell Ave, 7-OPC Tucson, Arizona. Tel.: (520) 626-6509, Fax: (520) 626-6050, E-mail:

Molecular Psychiatry is published by the Nature Publishing Group.

Editor: Julio Licinio, M.D.; phone: +1 310 825-7113; FAX: +1 310 206-6715; e-mail:

For a copy of this article, please contact Karl Lorenzen, editorial assistant, e-mail:


ARTICLE: "Association between a serotonin transporter promoter region polymorphism and mood response during tryptophan depletion"

AUTHORS: FA Moreno, DC Rowe, B Kaiser, D Chase, T Michaels, J Gelernter, PL Delgado

Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center; Family Studies Department, The University of Arizona College of Agriculture; Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, VA Connecticut Health Care Center; Department of Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

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