The Serotonin Transporter Gene Polymorphisms and Risk of Ischemic Stroke

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INTRODUCTION: Serotonin is known as a neurotransmitter; however, it also plays an important role in platelet aggregation as it is released upon platelet activation. The serotonin transporter (SERT) is responsible for the uptake of serotonin into platelets. Functional polymorphisms in the SERT gene may influence platelet activity, as they result in different levels of transporters and thereby different levels of serotonin in platelets. SERT gene polymorphisms have thus been associated with the risk of myocardial infarction. A similar association may exist between SERT gene polymorphisms and stroke. However, to our knowledge, this potential association has not previously been studied. We therefore aimed to investigate the association between polymorphisms in the SERT gene and the risk of ischemic stroke/transitory ischemic attack (TIA).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a case-control study including 834 consecutively admitted first-ever Caucasian ischemic stroke patients/TIA from Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark and 571 healthy controls. The control group comprised a sample from the Danish working population, who were all employees in the public sector in the Central Denmark Region. Two polymorphisms, the length variation (short = S/long = L) in the serotonin-transporter-linked polymorphic region and a single-nucleotide (A/G) polymorphism (rs25531) were studied. The genotypes were grouped according to the functional activity: SS, SLG and LGLG (low expression), SLA, LGLA (medium expression), and LALA (high expression). Data were analyzed using logistic regression and results presented as OR with 95% CI.

RESULTS: The high-expression genotype was associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke/TIA when compared to both the medium expression genotype (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.56-0.93) and the low-expression genotype (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.55-1.01) as well as the combination of the low and medium expression genotypes (OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.58-0.93). The lower OR estimates associated with the high-expression genotype were consistent across all stroke subtypes, although not statistically significant. The results remained virtually unchanged, although not reaching statistical significance, when adjusting for age and gender.

CONCLUSION: The presence of the high expression SERT genotype (LALA) may be associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke/TIA. This is, to our knowledge, the first study examining the SERT gene polymorphisms and the risk of stroke. The present results raise interesting considerations for future personalized medicine potential, and we argue that further larger-scale studies with sufficient power to study subgroups according to stroke etiology and stroke-onset age are needed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCerebrovascular Diseases
Pages (from-to)187-192
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018

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