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Sensitivity of Short and Long Allele Carriers of the 5-HTTLPR to Environmental Threat Post Hydrocortisone Administration

Information source: University of Texas at Austin
ClinicalTrials.gov processed this data on August 23, 2015
Link to the current ClinicalTrials.gov record.

Condition(s) targeted: Major Depressive Disorder; Anxiety Disorders

Intervention: Hydrocortisone (Drug)

Phase: N/A

Status: Completed

Sponsored by: University of Texas at Austin

Official(s) and/or principal investigator(s):
Robert A Josephs, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Affiliation: University of Texas at Austin


The current study will test the causal relationship between elevated levels of cortisol and the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) as these factors influence sensitivity to environmental threat. The investigators predict that carriers of the short allele of the serotonin transporter gene who have elevated cortisol levels will be most sensitive to threatening environments, whereas carriers of the long allele who do not have elevated cortisol (placebo subjects) will be least sensitive.

Clinical Details

Official title: Sensitivity of Short and Long Allele Carriers of the 5-HTTLPR to Environmental Threat Post Hydrocortisone Administration

Study design: Observational Model: Case Control

Primary outcome: Change in testosterone concentration

Detailed description: Depression vulnerability has been linked to certain variants of the serotonin transporter gene. Research indicates that a polymorphism of the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) gene appears to moderate the association between life stress and depression onset. Life stress robustly predicts depression onset for individuals with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles. Individuals homozygous for the short 5-HTTLPR allele thus appear to be more sensitive to the effect of life stress, which in turn contributes to depression onset. A recent study showed that short allele carriers presented with a threat (social or other threats) who also had high levels of testosterone had elevated cortisol after exposure to the threat. There is neurobiological evidence that short allele status, elevated testosterone levels, and elevated cortisol levels are all linked to amygdala hyper-reactivity to the same classes of environmental threats. Thus, this study will test, for the first time, a potential interaction between 5-HTTLPR status and experimentally manipulated cortisol levels as risk factors for downstream mood and/or anxiety disorders by examining potential dysregulated stress responses among short allele carriers who have elevated cortisol levels.


Minimum age: 18 Years. Maximum age: N/A. Gender(s): Both.


Inclusion Criteria:

- None

Exclusion Criteria:

- Are you under the age of 18 years old?

- Have you ever had an allergic reaction to hydrocortisone?

- Do you have diabetes or high blood pressure?

- Do you have any thyroid, liver, heart, lung, or kidney problems?

- Do you have herpes, HIV or any sexual transmitted disease?

- Are you currently pregnant or think you might be pregnant? Have you taken RU486,

Plan B or "Morning After Pill" within the last 2 weeks? - Are you currently


- Have you been sick within the last week? Do you have any fungal infections?

- Have you been exposed to measles or chicken pox in the last week?

- Have you ever had a seizure?

- Do you have any disease of bony tissue, such as osteoporosis?

- Do you have any autoimmune diseases, such as myasthenia gravis?

- Do you have multiple sclerosis?

- Do you have any condition that compromises you immune system function or causes you

to be more likely to get sick?

- Have you had any recent surgeries?

- Do you have and gastrointestinal problems, such as ulcers, diverticulitis, colitis,

hepatitis, or Crohn disease?

- Are you taking any of the following medications: nevirapine, telbivudine,

sipuleucel-T (IV), natalizumab (IV)?

- Have you received any vaccinations within the last week?

- With the exception of vitamins, have you taken any medications in the last 3 days,

including all over-the counter medications and/or supplements (e,g. Tylenol, ibuprofen, St. John's Wort, cold remedies)?

- Do you currently have or have you had in the past of any kind of cancer?

- Do you have any significant medical or psychiatric illnesses not listed above?

Locations and Contacts

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, United States

University of Texas at Austin Department of Psychology, Austin, Texas 78712, United States

Additional Information

Related publications:

Josephs RA, Telch MJ, Hixon JG, Evans JJ, Lee H, Knopik VS, McGeary JE, Hariri AR, Beevers CG. Genetic and hormonal sensitivity to threat: testing a serotonin transporter genotype × testosterone interaction. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Jun;37(6):752-61. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.09.006. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

Starting date: October 2012
Last updated: March 18, 2015

Page last updated: August 23, 2015

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