Interaction of early environment, gender and genes of monoamine neurotransmission in the aetiology of depression in a large population-based Finnish birth cohort

BMJ Open. 2011 Aug 27;1(1):e000087. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000087.


Objectives Depression is a worldwide leading cause of morbidity and disability. Genetic studies have recently begun to elucidate its molecular aetiology. The authors investigated candidate genes of monoamine neurotransmission and early environmental risk factors for depressiveness in the genetically isolated population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (12 058 live births). Design The authors ascertained and subdivided the study sample (n=5225) based on measures of early development and of social environment, and examined candidate genes of monoamine neurotransmission, many of which have shown prior evidence of a gene-environment interaction for affective disorders, namely SLC6A4, TPH2, COMT, MAOA and the dopamine receptor genes DRD1-DRD5. Results and conclusion The authors observed no major genetic effects of the analysed variants on depressiveness. However, when measures of early development and of social environment were considered, some evidence of interaction was observed. Allelic variants of COMT interacted with high early developmental risk (p=0.005 for rs2239393 and p=0.02 for rs4680) so that the association with depression was detected only in individuals at high developmental risk group (p=0.0046 and β=0.056 for rs5993883-rs2239393-rs4680 risk haplotype CGG including Val158), particularly in males (p=0.0053 and β=0.083 for the haplotype CGG). Rs4274224 from DRD2 interacted with gender (p=0.017) showing a significant association with depressiveness in males (p=0.0006 and β=0.0023; p=0.00005 and β=0.069 for rs4648318-rs4274224 haplotype GG). The results support the role of genes of monoamine neurotransmission in the aetiology of depression conditional on environmental risk and sex, but not direct major effects of monoaminergic genes in this unselected population.