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How possible is the development of an operational psychometric method to assess the presence of the 5-HTTLPR s allele? Equivocal preliminary findings

Xenia Gonda12*, Konstantinos N Fountoulakis3, Zoltan Rihmer2, Andras Laszik4, Hagop S Akiskal5 and Gyorgy Bagdy1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacodynamics, Semmelweis University, Faculty of Medicine, Budapest, Hungary

2 Department of Clinical and Theoretical Mental Health, Semmelweis University, Faculty of Medicine, Budapest, Hungary

3 Third Department of Psychiatry, Aristotle University, University Hospital AHEPA, Thessaloniki, Greece

4 Institute of Forensic Medicine, Semmelweis University, Faculty of Medicine, Budapest, Hungary

5 Department of Psychiatry, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

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Annals of General Psychiatry 2010, 9:21  doi:10.1186/1744-859X-9-21

Published: 7 May 2010



The s allele of the 5-hydroxytryptamine transporter-linked promoter region (5-HTTLPR) polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene has been found to be associated with neuroticism-related traits, affective temperaments and response to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment. The aim of the current study was to develop a psychometric tool that could at least partially substitute for laboratory testing and could predict the presence of the s allele.


The study included 138 women of Caucasian origin, mean 32.20 ± 1.02 years old. All subjects completed the Hungarian standardised version of the Temperament Evaluation of the Memphis, Pisa, Paris, and San Diego Autoquestionnaire (TEMPS-A) instrument and were genotyped for 5-HTTLPR using PCR. The statistical analysis included the calculation of the Index of Discrimination (D), Discriminant Function Analysis, creation of scales on the basis of the above and then item analysis and calculation of sensitivity and specificity.


Four indices were eventually developed, but their psychometric properties were relatively poor and their joint application did not improve the outcome.


We could not create a scale that predicts the 5-HTTLPR genotype with sufficient sensitivity and specificity, therefore we could not substitute a psychometric scale for laboratory genetic testing in predicting genotype, and also possibly affective disorder characterisation and treatment.