Mutations on 3 genes could predispose people to suicidal behaviour

June 15, 2010, FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Mutations on three genes could predispose people to suicidal behavior. Credit: David Corby.

Three genes that have barely been studied to date have now provided fresh knowledge about patients with suicidal backgrounds. This is the result of a study by a team of Spanish researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital and Columbia University in the City of New York (United States), which found that several mutations are involved. This finding could help to develop future genetic tests to identify predisposition to suicide, without ignoring the importance of social and cultural factors.

"There is ever-increasing evidence pointing to the important role played by in predisposing people to suicidal behaviour", Mercedes Pérez-Rodríguez, co-author of the study and a researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York (United States), tells SINC. Research carried out to date shows that around 40% of the variability in suicidal behaviour could have a genetic basis.

The objective of the study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics was to identify a model able to differentiate between people with and without a background of attempts. Instead of focusing on a few traditional candidate genes, the scientists examined a range of 840 functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) present in 312 genes expressed in the brain.

"The SNPs were analysed in men with a diagnosed psychiatric illnesses, and the results are promising", says Pérez-Rodríguez, who describes how her team was able to correctly classify 69% of the patients by using an algorithm based on three SNPs from three different genes.

"The predictive features of this algorithm for estimating suicide risk outperform those of all other models developed to date", stresses the researcher. In addition, the new model identifies three different neurobiological systems that could play a role in diathesis (organic predisposition) to suicidal behaviour.

The authors have suggested that the outcomes of this study could be used in future to create simple genetic tests of use in diagnosing and identifying patients prone to attempting suicide.

Genetic research into suicidal behaviour

Aside from the sociological and psychological causes, scientists have also started to use genetics over the past 20 years to analyse the causes of suicidal behaviour, which has continued to increase, above all in industrialised Western countries. The latest data from the WHO show that nearly one million people committed suicide in 2000, and it estimates that by 2020 this figure will have risen to 1.5 million.

Currently there are no reliable clinical tests to identify people who may be more predisposed to suicide. To date, studies have focused on parameters related to serotonin function, such as 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or measurements of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) such as the dexamethasone suppression test. However, these models are of no clinical use.

Previously, genetic research into had hardly looked at the three genes selected in the new study, which has now confirmed they are involved. These three code the 5-HT1E serotonin receptor (HTR1E, SNP rs10944288); the pi subunit of the A gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor (GABRP, SNP hCV8953491); and the alpha-2-actinin (ACTN2, SNP rs707216) subunit of the ionotropic glutamate receptor channel.

More information: Enrique Baca-Garcia, et al. "Nucleotide Variation in Central Nervous System Genes Among Male Suicide Attempters". American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B 153B:208, Jan 2010.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

Can mice really mirror humans when it comes to cancer?

January 18, 2018
A new Michigan State University study is helping to answer a pressing question among scientists of just how close mice are to people when it comes to researching cancer.

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Group recreates DNA of man who died in 1827 despite having no body to work with

January 16, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a group with deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland, has partly recreated the DNA of a man who died in 1827, despite having no body to take tissue samples from. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ormondotvos
not rated yet Jun 15, 2010
Minimally invasive article.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.