Interactive effect of 5-HTTLPR and BDNF polymorphisms on amygdala intrinsic functional connectivity and anxiety

Joshua Loewenstern, Xiaozhen You, Junaid Merchant, Evan M. Gordon, Melanie Stollstorff, Joseph Devaney, Chandan J. Vaidya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene polymorphisms have been associated with risk for affective disorders and functional variability of the amygdala. We examined whether the two genotypes interactively influence intrinsic functional connectivity (FC) of the amygdala and whether FC mediates the genetic association with anxiety. Eighty genotyped healthy adults underwent resting state fMRI and completed the self-reported State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Interactive genetic association with anxiety was observed such that effects of 5-HTTLPR depended on the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism (rs6265 variant), with higher anxiety scores in short and Met carriers compared to the other allelic groups. Voxel-wise FC with left and right amygdala seeds identified regions that were sensitive to variability in anxiety scores. A significant moderated mediation model demonstrated that the effect of 5-HTTLPR genotype on anxiety, moderated by BDNF Val66Met genotype, was fully mediated by FC between the left amygdala and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a cognitive control-related region, during a task-free state. FC was highest in carriers of the 5-HTTLPR short allele and BDNF Met allele. These findings establish intrinsic amygdala-prefrontal functional connectivity as a potential intermediate phenotype for anxiety, an important step toward identification of causal pathways for vulnerability to affective disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
StatePublished - Mar 30 2019


  • 5-HTTLPR
  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Intrinsic functional connectivity
  • fMRI


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