A gene for depression localized

January 4, 2012, Elsevier

Psychiatric disorders can be described on many levels, the most traditional of which are subjective descriptions of the experience of being depressed and the use of rating scales that quantify depressive symptoms. Over the past two decades, research has developed other strategies for describing the biological underpinnings of depression, including volumetric brain measurements using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the patterns of gene expression in white blood cells.

During this period, a great deal of research has attempted to characterize the genes that cause depression as reflected in rating scales of mood states, alterations in as measured by MRI, and in post-mortem from people who had depression.

So what would happen if one tried to find the gene or genes that explained the "whole picture" by combining all of the different types of information that one could collect? This is exactly what was attempted by Dr. David Glahn, of Yale University and Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living, and his colleagues.

"They have provided a very exciting strategy for uniting the various types of data that we collect in clinical research in studies attempting to identify risk genes," said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of .

Their work localized a gene, called RNF123, which may play a role in major depression.

They set out with two clear goals: to describe a new method for ranking measures of brain structure and function on their genetic 'importance' for an illness, and then to localize a for major depression.

"We were trying to come up with a way that could generally be used to link biological measurements to (psychiatric) disease risk," said Dr. John Blangero, director of the AT&T Genomics Computing Center at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. "And in our first application of this, in relation to major depressive disorder, we've actually come up with something quite exciting."

While RNF123 hasn't previously been linked to depression, it has been shown to affect a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is altered in people with major depression.

"We assume that the biological measures are closer mechanistically to the underlying disease processes in the brain. Yet, ultimately we are interested in the subjective experiences and functional impairment associated with mental illness," added Krystal. "The approach employed in this study may help to make use of all of this information, hopefully increasing our ability to identify genes that cause depression or might be targeted for its treatment."

Glahn said, "We still have more work before we truly believe this is a home-run gene, but we've got a really good candidate. Even that has been tough to do in depression."

Explore further: New approach to study depression may lead to new marker for risk

More information: The article is "High Dimensional Endophenotype Ranking in the Search for Major Depression Risk Genes" by David C. Glahn, Joanne E. Curran, Anderson M. Winkler, Melanie A. Carless, Jack W. Kent Jr., Jac C. Charlesworth, Matthew P. Johnson, Harald H.H. Göring, Shelley A. Cole, Thomas D. Dyer, Eric K. Moses, Rene L. Olvera, Peter Kochunov, Ravi Duggirala, Peter T. Fox, Laura Almasy, John and Blangero (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.08.022). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 71, Issue 1 (January 1, 2012)

Related Stories

New approach to study depression may lead to new marker for risk

October 28, 2011
Scientists at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and Yale University have identified a new target area in the human genome that appears to harbor genes with a major role in the onset of depression.

Scientists find molecular evidence of brain changes in depressed females

September 16, 2011
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have discovered molecular-level changes in the brains of women with major depressive disorder that link two hypotheses of the biological mechanisms that lead ...

Small hippocampus associated with depression in the elderly: Risk factor or shrinkage?

July 19, 2011
Imaging studies have repeatedly found that people with depression have smaller hippocampal volumes than healthy individuals. The hippocampus is a brain region involved in learning and memory, spatial navigation, and the evaluation ...

Shrinking brain could aid diagnosis of clinical depression

July 5, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Parts of the brain appear to shrink when people suffer from severe depression, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the National Institute for Health Research.

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

0 comments

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.