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Depression and anxiety disorders (AD) are the first and sixth leading causes of disability worldwide. Despite their high prevalence and significant disability resulted, there are limited advances in new drug development. Recently, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have greatly advanced our understanding of the genetic basis underlying psychiatric disorders.
Here we employed gene-set analyses of GWAS summary statistics for drug repositioning. We explored five related GWAS datasets, including two on major depressive disorder (MDD2018 and MDD-CONVERGE, with the latter focusing on severe melancholic depression), one on AD, and two on depressive symptoms and neuroticism in the population. We extracted gene-sets associated with each drug from DSigDB and examined their association with each GWAS phenotype. We also performed repositioning analyses on meta-analyzed GWAS data, integrating evidence from all related phenotypes.
Importantly, we showed that the repositioning hits are generally enriched for known psychiatric medications or those considered in clinical trials. Enrichment was seen for antidepressants and anxiolytics but also for antipsychotics. We also revealed new candidates or drug classes for repositioning, some of which were supported by experimental or clinical studies. For example, the top repositioning hit using meta-analyzed p values was fendiline, which was shown to produce antidepressant-like effects in mouse models by inhibition of acid sphingomyelinase.
Taken together, our findings suggest that human genomic data such as GWAS are useful in guiding drug discoveries for depression and AD.
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