Investigation of 17 candidate genes for personality traits confirms effects of the HTR2A gene on novelty seeking


A. Heck, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Kraepelinstrasse 2-10, 80804 Munich, Germany.


Genes involved in serotonergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission have been hypothesized to affect different aspects of personality, but findings from genetic association studies did not provide conclusive results so far. In previous studies, however, only one or a few polymorphisms within single genes were investigated neglecting the possibility that the genetic associations might be more complex comprising several genes or gene regions. To overcome this limitation, we performed an extended genetic association study analyzing 17 serotonergic (SLC6A4, HTR1A, HTR1B, HTR2A, HTR2C, HTR3A, HTR6, MAOA, TPH1, TPH2) and dopaminergic genes (SLC6A3, DRD2, DRD3, DRD4, COMT, MAOA, TH, DBH), which have been previously reported to be implicated with personality traits.

One hundred and ninety-five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within these genes were genotyped with the Illumina BeadChip technology (HumanHap300, Human-1) in a sample of 366 mentally healthy Caucasians. Additionally, we tried to replicate our results in an independent sample of further 335 Caucasians. Personality traits in both samples were assessed with the German version of Cloninger's Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire.

From 30 SNPs showing associations at a nominal level of significance, two intronic SNPs, rs2770296 and rs927544, both located in the HTR2A gene, withstood correction for multiple testing. These SNPs were associated with the personality trait novelty seeking. The effect of rs927544 could be replicated for the novelty seeking subscale extravagance, and the same SNP was also associated with extravagance inthe combined samples.

Our results show that HTR2A polymorphisms modulate facets of novelty seeking behaviour in healthy adults suggesting that serotonergic neurotransmission is involved in this phenotype.