Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been associated with changes in mean telomere length and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number. This study investigates if clinical features of MDD differentially impact these molecular markers.
Methods: Data from a large, clinically ascertained sample of Han Chinese women with recurrent MDD were used to examine whether symptom presentation, severity, and comorbidity were related to salivary telomere length and/or mtDNA copy number (maximum N = 5,284 for both molecular and phenotypic data).
Results: Structural equation modeling revealed that duration of longest episode was positively associated with mtDNA copy number, while earlier age of onset of most severe episode and a history of dysthymia were associated with shorter telomeres. Other factors, such as symptom presentation, family history of depression, and other comorbid internalizing disorders, were not associated with these molecular markers.
Conclusions: Chronicity of depressive symptoms is related to more pronounced telomere shortening and increased mtDNA copy number among individuals with a history of recurrent MDD. As these molecular markers have previously been implicated in physiological aging and morbidity, individuals who experience prolonged depressive symptoms are potentially at greater risk of adverse medical outcomes.
Keywords: biological markers; depression; dysthymic disorder; genetics; international.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.