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Open Access Research article

Serotonin receptor 3A polymorphism c.-42C > T is associated with severe dyspepsia

Suhreta Mujakovic14, José JM ter Linde4*, Niek J de Wit1, Corine J van Marrewijk2, Gerdine AJ Fransen3, N Charlotte Onland-Moret15, Robert JF Laheij2, Jean WM Muris3, Diederick E Grobbee1, Melvin Samsom4, Jan BMJ Jansen2, André Knottnerus3 and Mattijs E Numans1

Author Affiliations

1 University Medical Centre Utrecht, Julius Centre for Health Sciences and Primary Care, Utrecht, the Netherlands

2 University Medical Centre St. Radboud, Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

3 Maastricht University Medical Centre, Research Institute CAPHRI, Department of General Practice, Maastricht, the Netherlands

4 University Medical Centre Utrecht, Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Utrecht, the Netherlands

5 University Medical Centre Utrecht, Department of Medical Genetics-DBC, the Netherlands

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BMC Medical Genetics 2011, 12:140  doi:10.1186/1471-2350-12-140

Published: 20 October 2011



The association between anxiety and depression related traits and dyspepsia may reflect a common genetic predisposition. Furthermore, genetic factors may contribute to the risk of having increased visceral sensitivity, which has been implicated in dyspeptic symptom generation. Serotonin (5-HT) modulates visceral sensitivity by its action on 5-HT3 receptors. Interestingly, a functional polymorphism in HTR3A, encoding the 5-HT3 receptor A subunit, has been reported to be associated with depression and anxiety related traits. A functional polymorphism in the serotonin transporter (5-HTT), which terminates serotonergic signalling, was also found associated with these psychiatric comorbidities and increased visceral sensitivity in irritable bowel syndrome, which coexistence is associated with higher dyspeptic symptom severity. We investigated the association between these functional polymorphisms and dyspeptic symptom severity.


Data from 592 unrelated, Caucasian, primary care patients with dyspepsia participating in a randomised clinical trial comparing step-up and step-down antacid drug treatment (The DIAMOND trial) were analysed. Patients were genotyped for HTR3A c.-42C > T SNP and the 44 bp insertion/deletion polymorphism in the 5-HTT promoter (5-HTTLPR). Intensity of 8 dyspeptic symptoms at baseline was assessed using a validated questionnaire (0 = none; 6 = very severe). Sum score ≥20 was defined severe dyspepsia.


HTR3A c.-42T allele carriers were more prevalent in patients with severe dyspepsia (OR 1.50, 95% CI 1.06-2.20). This association appeared to be stronger in females (OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.25-3.39) and patients homozygous for the long (L) variant of the 5-HTTLPR genotype (OR 2.00, 95% CI 1.01-3.94). Females with 5-HTTLPR LL genotype showed the strongest association (OR = 3.50, 95% CI = 1.37-8.90).


The HTR3A c.-42T allele is associated with severe dyspeptic symptoms. The stronger association among patients carrying the 5-HTTLPR L allele suggests an additive effect of the two polymorphisms. These results support the hypothesis that diminished 5-HT3 mediated antinociception predisposes to increased visceral sensitivity of the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, the HTR3A c.-42C > T and 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms likely represent predisposing genetic variants in common to psychiatric morbidity and dyspepsia.