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Depression and obesity are highly prevalent, and major impacts on public health frequently co-occur. Recently, we reported that having depression moderates the effect of the FTO gene, suggesting its implication in the association between depression and obesity.
To confirm these findings by investigating the FTO polymorphism rs9939609 in new cohorts, and subsequently in a meta-analysis.
The sample consists of 6902 individuals with depression and 6799 controls from three replication cohorts and two original discovery cohorts. Linear regression models were performed to test for association between rs9939609 and body mass index (BMI), and for the interaction between rs9939609 and depression status for an effect on BMI. Fixed and random effects meta-analyses were performed using METASOFT.
In the replication cohorts, we observed a significant interaction between FTO, BMI and depression with fixed effects meta-analysis (β=0.12, P = 2.7 × 10−4) and with the Han/Eskin random effects method (P = 1.4 × 10−7) but not with traditional random effects (β = 0.1, P = 0.35). When combined with the discovery cohorts, random effects meta-analysis also supports the interaction (β = 0.12, P = 0.027) being highly significant based on the Han/Eskin model (P = 6.9 × 10−8). On average, carriers of the risk allele who have depression have a 2.2% higher BMI for each risk allele, over and above the main effect of FTO.
This meta-analysis provides additional support for a significant interaction between FTO, depression and BMI, indicating that depression increases the effect of FTO on BMI. The findings provide a useful starting point in understanding the biological mechanism involved in the association between obesity and depression.
Bipolar disorder is a highly heritable polygenic disorder. Recent
enrichment analyses suggest that there may be true risk variants for
bipolar disorder in the expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) in the
We sought to assess the impact of eQTL variants on bipolar disorder risk
by combining data from both bipolar disorder genome-wide association
studies (GWAS) and brain eQTL.
To detect single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that influence
expression levels of genes associated with bipolar disorder, we jointly
analysed data from a bipolar disorder GWAS (7481 cases and 9250 controls)
and a genome-wide brain (cortical) eQTL (193 healthy controls) using a
Bayesian statistical method, with independent follow-up replications. The
identified risk SNP was then further tested for association with
hippocampal volume (n = 5775) and cognitive performance
(n = 342) among healthy individuals.
Integrative analysis revealed a significant association between a brain
eQTL rs6088662 on chromosome 20q11.22 and bipolar disorder (log Bayes
factor = 5.48; bipolar disorder P =
5.85×10–5). Follow-up studies across multiple independent
samples confirmed the association of the risk SNP (rs6088662) with gene
expression and bipolar disorder susceptibility (P =
3.54×10–8). Further exploratory analysis revealed that
rs6088662 is also associated with hippocampal volume and cognitive
performance in healthy individuals.
Our findings suggest that 20q11.22 is likely a risk region for bipolar
disorder; they also highlight the informative value of integrating
functional annotation of genetic variants for gene expression in
advancing our understanding of the biological basis underlying complex
disorders, such as bipolar disorder.
Resilience is the capacity of individuals to resist mental disorders despite exposure to stress. Little is known about its neural underpinnings. The putative variation of white-matter microstructure with resilience in adolescence, a critical period for brain maturation and onset of high-prevalence mental disorders, has not been assessed by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Lower fractional anisotropy (FA) though, has been reported in the corpus callosum (CC), the brain's largest white-matter structure, in psychiatric and stress-related conditions. We hypothesized that higher FA in the CC would characterize stress-resilient adolescents.
Three groups of adolescents recruited from the community were compared: resilient with low risk of mental disorder despite high exposure to lifetime stress (n = 55), at-risk of mental disorder exposed to the same level of stress (n = 68), and controls (n = 123). Personality was assessed by the NEO-Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). Voxelwise statistics of DTI values in CC were obtained using tract-based spatial statistics. Regional projections were identified by probabilistic tractography.
Higher FA values were detected in the anterior CC of resilient compared to both non-resilient and control adolescents. FA values varied according to resilience capacity. Seed regional changes in anterior CC projected onto anterior cingulate and frontal cortex. Neuroticism and three other NEO-FFI factor scores differentiated non-resilient participants from the other two groups.
High FA was detected in resilient adolescents in an anterior CC region projecting to frontal areas subserving cognitive resources. Psychiatric risk was associated with personality characteristics. Resilience in adolescence may be related to white-matter microstructure.
Shorter telomere length (TL) has found to be associated with lower birth weight and with lower cognitive ability and psychiatric disorders. However, the direction of causation of these associations and the extent to which they are genetically or environmentally mediated are unclear. Within-pair comparisons of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins can throw light on these questions. We investigated correlations of within pair differences in telomere length, IQ, and anxiety/depression in an initial sample from Brisbane (242 MZ pairs, 245 DZ same sex (DZSS) pairs) and in replication samples from Amsterdam (514 MZ pairs, 233 DZSS pairs) and Melbourne (19 pairs selected for extreme high or low birth weight difference). Intra-pair differences of birth weight and telomere length were significantly correlated in MZ twins, but not in DZSS twins. Greater intra-pair differences of telomere length were observed in the 10% of MZ twins with the greatest difference in birth weight compared to the bottom 90% in both samples and also in the Melbourne sample. Intra-pair differences of telomere length and IQ, but not of TL and anxiety/depression, were correlated in MZ twins, and to a smaller extent in DZSS twins. Our findings suggest that the same prenatal effects that reduce birth weight also influence telomere length in MZ twins. The association between telomere length and IQ is partly driven by the same prenatal effects that decrease birth weight.
Strategies to dissect phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity of major depressive disorder (MDD) have mainly relied on subphenotypes, such as age at onset (AAO) and recurrence/episodicity. Yet, evidence on whether these subphenotypes are familial or heritable is scarce. The aims of this study are to investigate the familiality of AAO and episode frequency in MDD and to assess the proportion of their variance explained by common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP heritability).
For investigating familiality, we used 691 families with 2–5 full siblings with recurrent MDD from the DeNt study. We fitted (square root) AAO and episode count in a linear and a negative binomial mixed model, respectively, with family as random effect and adjusting for sex, age and center. The strength of familiality was assessed with intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). For estimating SNP heritabilities, we used 3468 unrelated MDD cases from the RADIANT and GSK Munich studies. After similarly adjusting for covariates, derived residuals were used with the GREML method in GCTA (genome-wide complex trait analysis) software.
Significant familial clustering was found for both AAO (ICC = 0.28) and episodicity (ICC = 0.07). We calculated from respective ICC estimates the maximal additive heritability of AAO (0.56) and episodicity (0.15). SNP heritability of AAO was 0.17 (p = 0.04); analysis was underpowered for calculating SNP heritability of episodicity.
AAO and episodicity aggregate in families to a moderate and small degree, respectively. AAO is under stronger additive genetic control than episodicity. Larger samples are needed to calculate the SNP heritability of episodicity. The described statistical framework could be useful in future analyses.
Recent studies have provided strong evidence that variation in the gene neurocan (NCAN, rs1064395) is a common risk factor for bipolar disorder (BD) and schizophrenia. However, the possible relevance of NCAN variation to disease mechanisms in the human brain has not yet been explored. Thus, to identify a putative pathomechanism, we tested whether the risk allele has an influence on cortical thickness and folding in a well-characterized sample of patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls.
Sixty-three patients and 65 controls underwent T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and were genotyped for the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1064395. Folding and thickness were analysed on a node-by-node basis using a surface-based approach (FreeSurfer).
In patients, NCAN risk status (defined by AA and AG carriers) was found to be associated with higher folding in the right lateral occipital region and at a trend level for the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Controls did not show any association (p > 0.05). For cortical thickness, there was no significant effect in either patients or controls.
This study is the first to describe an effect of the NCAN risk variant on brain structure. Our data show that the NCAN risk allele influences cortical folding in the occipital and prefrontal cortex, which may establish disease susceptibility during neurodevelopment. The findings suggest that NCAN is involved in visual processing and top-down cognitive functioning. Both major cognitive processes are known to be disturbed in schizophrenia. Moreover, our study reveals new evidence for a specific genetic influence on local cortical folding in schizophrenia.
Although usually thought of as external environmental stressors, a significant heritable component has been reported for measures of stressful life events (SLEs) in twin studies.
We examined the variance in SLEs captured by common genetic variants from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 2578 individuals. Genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) was used to estimate the phenotypic variance tagged by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We also performed a GWAS on the number of SLEs, and looked at correlations between siblings.
A significant proportion of variance in SLEs was captured by SNPs (30%, p = 0.04). When events were divided into those considered to be dependent or independent, an equal amount of variance was explained for both. This ‘heritability’ was in part confounded by personality measures of neuroticism and psychoticism. A GWAS for the total number of SLEs revealed one SNP that reached genome-wide significance (p = 4 × 10−8), although this association was not replicated in separate samples. Using available sibling data for 744 individuals, we also found a significant positive correlation of R2 = 0.08 in SLEs (p = 0.03).
These results provide independent validation from molecular data for the heritability of reporting environmental measures, and show that this heritability is in part due to both common variants and the confounding effect of personality.
It has been proposed that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may interfere with the efficacy of antidepressants and contribute to treatment resistance in major depressive disorder (MDD). This effect requires replication and a test of whether it is specific to serotonin-reuptake inhibiting (SRI) antidepressants.
We tested the effect of concomitant medication with NSAIDs on the efficacy of escitalopram, a SRI antidepressant, and nortriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, among 811 subjects with MDD treated for up to 12 weeks in the GENDEP study. Effects of NSAIDs on improvement of depressive symptoms were tested in mixed-effect linear models. Effects on remission were tested in logistic regression. Age, sex, baseline severity and centre of recruitment were considered as potential confounding factors.
Ten percent (n=78) of subjects were taking NSAIDs during the antidepressant treatment. Older subjects were significantly more likely to take NSAIDs. After controlling for age, sex, centre of recruitment and baseline severity, concomitant medication with NSAIDs did not significantly influence the efficacy of escitalopram [β=0.035, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.145 to 0.215, p=0.704] or nortriptyline (β=0.075, 95% CI −0.131 to 0.281, p=0.476). Although slightly fewer subjects who took NSAIDs reached remission [odds ratio (OR) 0.80, 95% CI 0.49–1.31, p=0.383], this non-significant effect was reversed after controlling for age, sex, baseline severity and recruitment centre effects (OR 1.04, 95% CI 0.61–1.77, p=0.882).
NSAIDs are unlikely to affect the efficacy of SRI or other antidepressants. Concurrent use of NSAIDs and antidepressants does not need to be avoided.
Symptom dimensions have not yet been comprehensively tested as predictors of the substantial heterogeneity in outcomes of antidepressant treatment in major depressive disorder.
We tested nine symptom dimensions derived from a previously published factor analysis of depression rating scales as predictors of outcome in 811 adults with moderate to severe depression treated with flexibly dosed escitalopram or nortriptyline in Genome-based Therapeutic Drugs for Depression (GENDEP). The effects of symptom dimensions were tested in mixed-effect regression models that controlled for overall initial depression severity, age, sex and recruitment centre. Significant results were tested for replicability in 3637 adult out-patients with non-psychotic major depression treated with citalopram in level I of Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D).
The interest-activity symptom dimension (reflecting low interest, reduced activity, indecisiveness and lack of enjoyment) at baseline strongly predicted poor treatment outcome in GENDEP, irrespective of overall depression severity, antidepressant type and outcome measure used. The prediction of poor treatment outcome by the interest-activity dimension was robustly replicated in STAR*D, independent of a comprehensive list of baseline covariates.
Loss of interest, diminished activity and inability to make decisions predict poor outcome of antidepressant treatment even after adjustment for overall depression severity and other clinical covariates. The prominence of such symptoms may require additional treatment strategies and should be accounted for in future investigations of antidepressant response.
Recent genetic studies found the A allele of the variant rs1006737 in the alpha 1C subunit of the L-type voltage-gated calcium channel (CACNA1C) gene to be over-represented in patients with psychosis, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. In these disorders, attention deficits are among the main cognitive symptoms and have been related to altered neural activity in cerebral attention networks. The particular effect of CACNA1C on neural function, such as attention networks, remains to be elucidated.
The current event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigated the effect of the CACNA1C gene on brain activity in 80 subjects while performing a scanner-adapted version of the Attention Network Test (ANT). Three domains of attention were probed simultaneously: alerting, orienting and executive control of attention.
Risk allele carriers showed impaired performance in alerting and orienting in addition to reduced neural activity in the right inferior parietal lobule [Brodmann area (BA) 40] during orienting and in the medial frontal gyrus (BA 8) during executive control of attention. These areas belong to networks that have been related to impaired orienting and executive control mechanisms in neuropsychiatric disorders.
Our results suggest that CACNA1C plays a role in the development of specific attention deficits in psychiatric disorders by modulation of neural attention networks.
Response and remission defined by cut-off values on the last observed depression severity score are commonly used as outcome criteria in clinical trials, but ignore the time course of symptomatic change and may lead to inefficient analyses. We explore alternative categorization of outcome by naturally occurring trajectories of symptom change.
Growth mixture models were applied to repeated measurements of depression severity in 807 participants with major depression treated for 12 weeks with escitalopram or nortriptyline in the part-randomized Genome-based Therapeutic Drugs for Depression study. Latent trajectory classes were validated as outcomes in drug efficacy comparison and pharmacogenetic analyses.
The final two-piece growth mixture model categorized participants into a majority (75%) following a gradual improvement trajectory and the remainder following a trajectory with rapid initial improvement. The rapid improvement trajectory was over-represented among nortriptyline-treated participants and showed an antidepressant-specific pattern of pharmacogenetic associations. In contrast, conventional response and remission favoured escitalopram and produced chance results in pharmacogenetic analyses. Controlling for drop-out reduced drug differences on response and remission but did not affect latent trajectory results.
Latent trajectory mixture models capture heterogeneity in the development of clinical response after the initiation of antidepressants and provide an outcome that is distinct from traditional endpoint measures. It differentiates between antidepressants with different modes of action and is robust against bias due to differential discontinuation.
There have been conflicting reports on whether the length polymorphism in
the promoter of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) moderates the
antidepressant effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
(SSRIs). We hypothesised that the pharmacogenetic effect of 5-HTTLPR is
modulated by gender, age and other variants in the serotonin transporter
To test the hypothesis that the 5-HTTLPR differently influences response
to escitalopram (an SSRI) compared with nortriptyline (a noradrenaline
The 5-HTTLPR and 13 additional markers across the serotonin transporter
gene were genotyped in 795 adults with moderate-to-severe depression
treated with escitalopram or nortriptyline in the Genome Based
Therapeutic Drugs for Depression (GENDEP) project.
The 5-HTTLPR moderated the response to escitalopram, with long-allele
carriers improving more than short-allele homozygotes. A significant
three-way interaction between 5-HTTLPR, drug and gender indicated that
the effect was concentrated in males treated with escitalopram. The
single-nucleotide polymorphism rs2020933 also influenced outcome.
The effect of 5-HTTLPR on antidepressant response is SSRI specific
conditional on gender and modulated by another polymorphism at the 5' end
of the serotonin transporter gene.
Schizophrenia is a complex disorder with a high heritability. Family members have an increased risk not only for schizophrenia per se but also for schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Impairment of neuropsychological functions found in schizophrenia patients are also frequently observed in their relatives. The dystrobrevin-binding protein 1 (DTNBP1) gene located at chromosome 6p22.3 is one of the most often replicated vulnerability genes for schizophrenia. In addition, this gene has been shown to modulate general cognitive abilities both in healthy subjects and in patients with schizophrenia.
In a sample of 521 healthy subjects we investigated an association between the DTNBP1 genotype [single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1018381], personality traits [using the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) and the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire – Brief Version (SPQ-B)] and cognitive function (estimated IQ, verbal fluency, attention, working memory and executive function).
Significantly lower scores on the SPQ-B (p=0.0005) and the Interpersonal Deficit subscale (p=0.0005) in carriers of the A-risk allele were detected. There were no differences in any of the cognitive variables between groups.
The results indicate that genetic variation of the DTNBP1 genotype might exert gene-specific modulating effects on schizophrenia endophenotypes at the population level.
A number of scales are used to estimate the severity of depression. However, differences between self-report and clinician rating, multi-dimensionality and different weighting of individual symptoms in summed scores may affect the validity of measurement. In this study we examined and integrated the psychometric properties of three commonly used rating scales.
The 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17), the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were administered to 660 adult patients with unipolar depression in a multi-centre pharmacogenetic study. Item response theory (IRT) and factor analysis were used to evaluate their psychometric properties and estimate true depression severity, as well as to group items and derive factor scores.
The MADRS and the BDI provide internally consistent but mutually distinct estimates of depression severity. The HAMD-17 is not internally consistent and contains several items less suitable for out-patients. Factor analyses indicated a dominant depression factor. A model comprising three dimensions, namely ‘observed mood and anxiety’, ‘cognitive’ and ‘neurovegetative’, provided a more detailed description of depression severity.
The MADRS and the BDI can be recommended as complementary measures of depression severity. The three factor scores are proposed for external validation.
We report on a family with co-occurrence of affective disorder and Hailey-Hailey disease in two brothers and the mother. The putative chromosomal locus of Hailey-Hailey disease, which is a rare dominantly inherited dermatosis, may be a promising candidate region for genetic studies in affective disorder.
British Journal of Psychiatry (1993), 163, 109–110
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