Men and women have opposite genetic alterations in depression

March 13, 2018, Elsevier
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Men and women with major depressive disorder (MDD) have opposite changes in the expression of the same genes, according to a new postmortem brain study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, Canada. The findings, published in Biological Psychiatry, indicate distinct pathology, and suggest that men and women may need different types of treatment for depression.

"This important paper highlights the divergent molecular mechanisms contributing to depression in men and . It challenges the assumption that a similar diagnosis across people has the same biology," said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

This is the first time that this unique opposing pathology has been reported. "While researchers have been examining the brains of depressed subjects for decades, many of these studies included only men," said lead author Marianne Seney, PhD, of University of Pittsburgh. This is despite the differences in MDD between men and women—women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with MDD, and report greater illness severity and different types of symptoms than men.

The study combined eight published datasets (four in men and four in women) in a meta-analysis. Senior author Etienne Sibille, PhD, of CAMH, and colleagues analyzed , which indicate how much protein a gene is producing, in postmortem brain tissue of 50 people with MDD (26 men and 24 women) and the same number of unaffected men and women for comparison.

Most of the genes that had altered were changed in only men or only women. However, genes that were altered in both men and women were changed in opposite directions. Women had increased expression of genes affecting synapse function, whereas men had decreased expression of the same genes. Women had decreases in genes affecting immune function, whereas men had increased expression of these . Additionally, the researchers applied their methods to data from a different set of subjects and replicated the opposing changes.

The analysis included three different brain regions that regulate mood—the anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and amygdala—and that are dysfunctional in MDD. The opposite changes in gene expression were specific to the different brain regions. So if women had increased expression of a particular gene in one region and decreased in another, men showed just the opposite.

Because the study used postmortem tissue, the effect of the opposite molecular signatures on how MDD affects men and women differently could not be studied. But the findings support sex-specific pathology in the disorder.

"These results have significant implications for development of potential novel treatments and suggest that these treatments should be developed separately for men and women," said Dr. Seney. For example, in the paper the authors suggest that new treatments targeting the sex-specific pathology in MDD might suppress immune function in men, or boost its function in women.

Explore further: Scientists find molecular evidence of brain changes in depressed females

More information: Marianne L. Seney et al, Opposite Molecular Signatures of Depression in Men and Women, Biological Psychiatry (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.01.017

Related Stories

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 ...

Expression of certain genes may be key to more youthful looking skin

November 28, 2017
Some individuals' skin appears more youthful than their chronologic age. Although many people try to achieve this with creams, lotions, injections, and surgeries, new research published in the Journal of the American Academy ...

Different gene expression in male and female brains may help explain sex differences in brain disorder

November 22, 2013
UCL scientists have shown that there are widespread differences in how genes, the basic building blocks of the human body, are expressed in men and women's brains.

Throughout our bodies, thousands of genes act differently in men and women

November 1, 2017
Most of us are familiar with the genetic differences between men and women.

Glia, not neurons, are most affected by brain aging

January 10, 2017
The difference between an old brain and a young brain isn't so much the number of neurons but the presence and function of supporting cells called glia. In Cell Reports on January 10, researchers who examined postmortem brain ...

Women have more active brains than men

August 7, 2017
In the largest functional brain imaging study to date, the Amen Clinics (Newport Beach, CA) compared 46,034 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) imaging studies provided by nine clinics, quantifying differences ...

Recommended for you

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2018
best on-line help to save your marriage and relationship from breakup or divorce , he can also cure you from you illness contact dr Ewan today on or +2349078040531 add him on watsapp on +2349078040531 or contact him on his email

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.