Background: Facial emotion perception is a major social skill, but its molecular signal pathway remains unclear. The MET/AKT cascade affects neurodevelopment in general populations and face recognition in patients with autism. This study explores the possible role of MET/AKT cascade in facial emotion perception. Methods: One hundred and eighty two unrelated healthy volunteers (82 men and 100 women) were recruited. Four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) of MET (rs2237717, rs41735, rs42336, and rs1858830) and AKT rs1130233 were genotyped and tested for their effects on facial emotion perception. Facial emotion perception was assessed by the face task of Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). Thorough neurocognitive functions were also assessed. Results: Regarding MET rs2237717, individuals with the CT genotype performed better in facial emotion perception than those with TT (p = 0.016 by ANOVA, 0.018 by general linear regression model [GLM] to control for age, gender, and education duration), and showed no difference with those with CC. Carriers with the most common MET CGA haplotype (frequency = 50.5%) performed better than non-carriers of CGA in facial emotion perception (p = 0.018, df = 1, F = 5.69, p = 0.009 by GLM). In MET rs2237717/AKT rs1130233 interaction, the C carrier/G carrier group showed better facial emotion perception than those with the TT/AA genotype (p = 0.035 by ANOVA, 0.015 by GLM), even when neurocognitive functions were controlled (p = 0.046 by GLM). Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study to suggest that genetic factors can affect performance of facial emotion perception. The findings indicate that MET variances and MET/AKT interaction may affect facial emotion perception, implicating that the MET/AKT cascade plays a significant role in facial emotion perception. Further replication studies are needed. © 2012 Lin et al.
Lin, M. T., Huang, K. H., Huang, C. L., Huang, Y. J., Tsai, G. E., & Lane, H. Y. (2012). MET and AKT genetic influence on facial emotion perception. PLoS ONE, 7(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0036143