Polymorphisms in melatonin synthesis pathways: possible influences on depression

J Circadian Rhythms. 2011 Aug 9;9:8. doi: 10.1186/1740-3391-9-8.


Background: It has been reported that rs4446909, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the promoter of acetylserotonin methyltransferase (ASMT), influences the expression of the ASMT enzyme. The common G allele is associated with lower ASMT activity, and therefore, diminishes conversion of N-acetylserotonin to melatonin. The G allele was associated with recurrent depressive disorder in a Polish group. ASMT might also affect bipolar relapse, given evidence that N-acetylserotonin might stimulate TRKB receptors, and TRKB may influence mood relapse in bipolar disorder. Additionally, arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) polymorphisms have been reported associated with depression, perhaps through their influence upon N-acetylserotonin or melatonin synthesis.

Results: To replicate and further explore these ideas, rs4446909 was genotyped in four research groups, as part of a panel of 610 SNPs surveyed by an Illumina Golden Gate assay. In 768 cases with delayed sleep phase disorder or matched controls, rs4446909 was indeed associated with the depressive symptoms on a self-report scale (P = 0.01, R2 = 0.007). However, there was no significant association of rs4446909 with self-reported depression in a sleep clinic patient group or with two groups of elderly men and women from multicenter studies, nor was the response to lithium treatment associated with rs4446909 in bipolar patients. No associations of two AANAT SNPs with depression were found.

Conclusions: The evidence did not support a strong influence of rs4446909 upon mood, but the partial replication may be consistent with a modest effect. It is possible that larger or younger subject groups with improved phenotype ascertainment might demonstrate more persuasive replication.