Public Release: 

Genetic basis for individual variations in the response to stress

Molecular Psychiatry

The glucocorticoid component of the stress response has been the subject of intense scientific scrutiny because of the wide ranging pathological consequences resulting from excess glucocorticoid exposure, including mood and anxiety disorders, and cognitive impairment. Exposure to stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic adrenomedullary system, which are regulated by neuronal pathways, including the inhibitory GABAergic (gamma aminobutyric acid) system. Approximately 60% of the variance in glucocorticod levels may be attributable to genetic individual differences. In the present study, 56 healthy subjects underwent genotyping to determine the influence of the T1521C single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the GABAA6 receptor subunit gene (GABRA6) on the hormonal and autonomic responses to psychological stress induced by the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), cortisol, diastolic blood pressure, and mean blood pressure responses to the TSST were significantly greater in subjects homozygous for the T allele or heterozygous compared to subjects homozygous for the C allele. Behavioral data was collected employing the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R); subjects homozygous for the C allele scored significantly lower on the Extraversion factor compared to subjects homozygous for the T allele or heterozygous. These results suggest that the T1521C polymorphism in the GABRA6 gene is associated with specific personality characteristics as well as a marked attenuation in hormonal and blood pressure responses to psychological stress.


Citation source: Molecular Psychiatry 2004 Volume 9, advance on line publication doi:10.1038/

For further information on this work, please contact Professor Gary Wand, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Ross Research Building, Room 863, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. E-mail:; phone: 410-955-7225

ARTICLE: "GABRA6 gene polymorphism and an attenuated stress response"

M Uhart, M E McCaul, L M Oswald, L Choi and G S Wand

Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
Department of Psychiatry, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
Department of Biostatistics, Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

Molecular Psychiatry is published by the Nature Publishing Group.

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

A copy of this article is attached to this message. For further information, please contact Aimeee Midei, e-mail:


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.