Personality and gene expression: Do individual differences exist in the leukocyte transcriptome?

TitlePersonality and gene expression: Do individual differences exist in the leukocyte transcriptome?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsVedhara K, Gill S, Eldesouky L, Campbell BK, Arevalo JMG, Ma J, Cole SW
Date Published2015 Feb
KeywordsAdolescent, Adult, Female, Gene Expression, Humans, Individuality, Inflammation, Leukocytes, Male, Middle Aged, Personality, Transcriptome, Young Adult

BACKGROUND: The temporal and situational stability of personality has led generations of researchers to hypothesize that personality may have enduring effects on health, but the biological mechanisms of such relationships remain poorly understood. In the present study, we utilized a functional genomics approach to examine the relationship between the 5 major dimensions of personality and patterns of gene expression as predicted by 'behavioural immune response' theory. We specifically focussed on two sets of genes previously linked to stress, threat, and adverse socio-environmental conditions: pro-inflammatory genes and genes involved in Type I interferon and antibody responses.

METHODS: An opportunity sample of 121 healthy individuals was recruited (86 females; mean age 24 years). Individuals completed a validated measure of personality; questions relating to current health behaviours; and provided a 5ml sample of peripheral blood for gene expression analysis.

RESULTS: Extraversion was associated with increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes and Conscientiousness was associated with reduced expression of pro-inflammatory genes. Both associations were independent of health behaviours, negative affect, and leukocyte subset distributions. Antiviral and antibody-related gene expression was not associated with any personality dimension.

CONCLUSIONS: The present data shed new light on the long-observed epidemiological associations between personality, physical health, and human longevity. Further research is required to elucidate the biological mechanisms underlying these associations.

Alternate JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
PubMed ID25459894
PubMed Central IDPMC4297539
Grant ListP30 AG017265 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
P30 AG107265 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States