Appetitive and reactive aggression are differentially associated with the STin2 genetic variant in the serotonin transporter gene

Hemmings, Sian Megan Joanna ; Xulu, Khethelo ; Sommer, Jessica ; Hinsberger, Martina ; Malan-Muller, Stefanie ; Tromp, Gerard ; Elbert, Thomas ; Weierstall, Roland ; Seedat, Soraya (2018-04)

CITATION: Hemmings, S. M. J., et al. 2018. Appetitive and reactive aggression are differentially associated with the STin2 genetic variant in the serotonin transporter gene. Scientific Reports, 8:6714, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-25066-8.

The original publication is available at https://jefjournal.org.za

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund

Article

Appetitive aggression is a sub-category of instrumental aggression, characterised by the primary intrinsic enjoyment of aggressive activity. Aggression is heritable, and serotonergic and monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems have been found to contribute to the underlying molecular mechanisms. The aim of this study was to investigate the role that genetic variants in the serotonin transporter (SLC6A4) and monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) genes play in the aetiology of appetitive aggression in South African Xhosa males (n = 290). SLC6A4 5-HTTLPR, rs25531, and STin2 variants, as well as MAOA-uVNTR were investigated for their association with levels of appetitive aggression using Poisson regression analysis. The STin2 VNTR12 allele was found to be associated with increased levels of appetitive aggression (p = 0.003), but with decreased levels of reactive aggression (p = 7 × 10−5). This study is the first to investigate genetic underpinnings of appetitive aggression in a South African population, with preliminary evidence suggesting that SCL6A4 STin2 variants play a role in its aetiology, and may also be important in differentiating between appetitive and reactive aggression. Although the results require replication, they shed some preliminary light on the molecular dichotomy that may underlie the two forms of aggression.

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