Physiological and affective reactivity to a 35% CO2 inhalation challenge in individuals differing in the 5-HTTLPR genotype and trait neuroticism

E. Verschoor, C.R. Markus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The inhalation of 35% carbon dioxide (CO2) results in an acute stress response in healthy individuals and may accordingly provide a good paradigm to examine potential vulnerability factors for stress reactivity and stress-related psychopathology. It has been proposed that CO2 reactivity is moderated by genetic (5-HTTLPR) and personality (neuroticism) factors, yet no experimental study has investigated their effects on CO2 reactivity simultaneously. The current study examined the singular and interactive effects of the 5-HTTLPR genotype and neuroticism in predicting the affective and physiological response to a 35% CO2 challenge in a healthy sample of male and female students. From a large group of 771 students, 48 carriers of the low/low expressing allele (S/S, S/Lg, Lg/Lg) and 48 carriers of the high/high expressing allele (La/La) with the lowest and the highest neuroticisnn scores (77 females, 19 males; mean age +/- SD: 20.6 +/- 2 years) were selected and underwent a 35% CO2 inhalation. Visual analogue scales for anxiety and discomfort and the Panic Symptom List were used to assess affective symptomatology, while salivary samples and heart rate were assessed to establish the physiological response. A typical pattern of responses to CO2 was observed, characterised by increases in anxiogenic symptoms and physical panic symptomatology and a reduction in heart rate; however, no effect on salivary cortisol concentration was observed. Additionally, the CO2 reactivity did not differ between groups divided by the 5-HTTLPR genotype or neuroticism. Findings of the current study do not support a role for singular or interactive effects of the 5-HTTLPR genotype and trait neuroticism on affective and physiological reactivity to a 35% CO2 inhalation procedure. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-554
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

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