Significant association of estrogen receptor binding site variation with bipolar disorder in females

PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32304. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032304. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


Major depression is nearly twice as prevalent in women compared to men. In bipolar disorder, depressive episodes have been reported to be more common amongst female patients. Furthermore, periods of depression often correlate with periods of hormonal fluctuations. A link between hormone signaling and these mood disorders has, therefore, been suggested to exist in many studies. Estrogen, one of the primary female sex hormones, mediates its effect mostly by binding to estrogen receptors (ERs). Nuclear ERs function as transcription factors and regulate gene transcription by binding to specific DNA sequences. A nucleotide change in the binding sequence might alter the binding efficiency, which could affect transcription levels of nearby genes. In order to investigate if variation in ER DNA-binding sequences may be involved in mood disorders, we conducted a genome-wide study of ER DNA-binding in patients diagnosed with major depression or bipolar disorder. Association studies were performed within each gender separately and the results were corrected for multiple testing by the Bonferroni method. In the female bipolar disorder material a significant association result was found for rs6023059 (corrected p-value = 0.023; odds ratio (OR) 0.681, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.570-0.814), a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) placed downstream of the gene coding for transglutaminase 2 (TGM2). Thus, females with a specific genotype at this SNP may be more vulnerable to fluctuating estrogen levels, which may then act as a triggering factor for bipolar disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics*
  • Female
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics*
  • Transglutaminases / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • transglutaminase 2
  • Transglutaminases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins