Open Access Research article

Dopamine transporter 3'UTR VNTR genotype is a marker of performance on executive function tasks in children with ADHD

Sherif Karama12, Natalie Grizenko12, Edmund Sonuga-Barke5, Alysa Doyle6, Joseph Biederman6, Valentin Mbekou2, Anna Polotskaia2, Marina Ter-Stepanian2, Rosherrie De Guzman2, Johanne Bellingham2, Sarojini Sengupta2 and Ridha Joober12347*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

2 Department of Psychiatry, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, Canada

3 Department of Psychiatry, Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

4 Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

5 School of Psychology, Southampton University, Southampton, UK

6 Department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

7 Douglas Hospital Research Centre, 6875 LaSalle blvd., Verdun, QC, H4H 1R3, Canada

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BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:45  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-45

Published: 17 June 2008



Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a heterogeneous disorder from both clinical and pathogenic viewpoints. Executive function deficits are considered among the most important pathogenic pathways leading to ADHD and may index part of the heterogeneity in this disorder.


To investigate the relationship between the dopamine transporter gene (SLC6A3) 3'-UTR VNTR genotypes and executive function in children with ADHD, 196 children diagnosed with ADHD were sequentially recruited, genotyped, and tested using a battery of three neuropsychological tests aimed at assessing the different aspects of executive functioning.


Taking into account a correction for multiple comparisons, the main finding of this study is a significant genotype effect on performances on the Tower of London (F = 6.902, p = 0.009) and on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Third Edition (WISC-III) Freedom From Distractibility Index (F = 7.125, p = 0.008), as well as strong trends on Self Ordered Pointing Task error scores (F = 4,996 p = 0.026) and WISC-III Digit Span performance (F = 6.28, p = 0.023). Children with the 9/10 genotype exhibited, on average, a poorer performance on all four measures compared to children with the 10/10 genotype. No effect of genotype on Wisconsin Card Sorting Test measures of performance was detected.


Results are compatible with the view that SLC6A3 genotype may modulate components of executive function performance in children with ADHD.