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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.
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.
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.
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.
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