Interaction between 5-HTTLPR genotype and cognitive stress vulnerability on sleep quality: effects of sub-chronic tryptophan administration

Jens H. van Dalfsen, C.R. Markus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Abundant evidence suggests that allelic variation in the serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) influences susceptibility to stress and its affective consequences due to brain serotonergic vulnerability. Based on recent assumptions, the present study examined whether the 5-HTTLPR genotype may also interact with a vulnerability to chronic stress experience (conceptualized by trait neuroticism) in order to influence sleep quality and, additionally, whether this is influenced by brain serotonergic manipulations. METHODS: In a well-balanced experimental design, homozygous S-allele (n = 57) and L-allele (n = 54) genotypes with high and low chronic stress vulnerability (neuroticism) were first assessed for general past sleep quality during a month before onset of the experiment. Then subjects were assessed for sleep quality following 7 days of tryptophan (3.0g/day) or placebo intake. RESULTS: Although high neuroticism was significantly related to a higher frequency of stressful life events and daily hassles, it did not interact with the 5-HTTLPR genotype on general past sleep quality. However, as expected, a 7 day period of tryptophan administration was exclusively associated with better sleep quality scores in the S'/S' genotype with high trait neuroticism. CONCLUSIONS: Current findings suggest that 5-HTTLPR does not directly interact with stress vulnerability in order to influence sleep quality. Instead, based on current and previous findings, it is suggested that the S'/S' 5-HTTLPR genotype promotes the risk for stress-related sleep disturbances because of an increased susceptibility to the depressogenic consequences of stress. Accordingly, by way of reducing depressive symptomatology, tryptophan augmentation may particularly improve sleep quality in stress-vulnerable individuals carrying the 5-HTTLPR S-allele.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberpyu057
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Cite this