Although both genetic factors and features of the social environment are important predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there are few data examining gene-social environment interactions in studies of PTSD. The authors examined whether features of the social environment (county-level crime rate and unemployment) modified the association between the serotonin protein gene (SLC6A4) promoter variant (5-HTTLPR) and risk of current PTSD in a sample of 590 participants from the 2004 Florida Hurricane Study. Interviews conducted in 2005 were used to obtain individual-level risk factor measures and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, PTSD diagnoses. DNA was extracted from salivary samples. County-level crime and unemployment rates were assessed from Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Census data, respectively. There was a significant interaction between 5-HTTLPR genotype and both crime rate (odds ratio=2.68, 95% confidence interval: 1.09, 6.57) and unemployment rate (odds ratio=3.67, 95% confidence interval: 1.42, 9.50) in logistic regression models predicting PTSD risk, after adjustment for individual-level determinants of PTSD. Stratified analyses indicated that the “s” allele of the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism was associated with decreased risk of PTSD in low-risk environments (low crime/unemployment rates) but increased risk of PTSD in high-risk environments. These results suggest that social environment modifies the effect of 5-HTTLPR genotype on PTSD risk.
Keywords: crime, genetics, serotonin, serotonin plasma membrane transport proteins, SLC6A4 protein, human, social environment, stress disorders, post-traumatic, unemployment