Allopregnanolone levels and depressive symptoms during pregnancy in relation to single nucleotide polymorphisms in the allopregnanolone synthesis pathway

Horm Behav. 2017 Aug:94:106-113. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2017.06.008. Epub 2017 Jul 20.


Allopregnanolone, a neurosteroid whose levels rise throughout gestation, putatively stabilizes antenatal mood. The present study aimed to investigate associations of plasma allopregnanolone to antenatal depressive symptoms, as well as to genetic and obstetric factors. Allopregnanolone plasma levels from 284 pregnant women were measured around gestational week 18. Haplotype tag single nucleotide polymorphisms in the aldo-keto reductase family 1, members C2 and C4 (AKR1C2, AKR1C4), and steroid 5 alpha-reductase 1 and 2 (SRD5A1, and SRD5A2) genes were genotyped in a larger sample of pregnant women (n=1351). The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was administered via web-questionnaires in gestational weeks 17 and 32. Demographic and obstetric data was retrieved from web-questionnaires and medical records. There was no association between allopregnanolone levels and depressive symptoms. Furthermore, no associations between allopregnanolone level and synthesis pathway genotypes were found after accounting for multiple comparisons. However, exploratory analyses suggested that the women who were homozygous for the minor allele of the AKR1C2 polymorphism rs1937863 had nominally lower allopregnanolone levels and lower depression scores in gestational week 17, but also the highest increase in depression scores between week 17 and 32. Additionally, higher body mass index was associated with lower allopregnanolone levels. The results do not support second trimester plasma allopregnanolone as a mood stabilizing factor. However, we speculate that AKR1C2 variation may alter the susceptibility to depressive symptoms through effects on central allopregnanolone synthesis. Another implication of this study is that the relationship between neuroactive steroids and obesity in pregnancy deserves to be investigated.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Adult
  • Depression / blood
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Depression, Postpartum / blood
  • Depression, Postpartum / genetics
  • Depression, Postpartum / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics*
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / genetics*
  • Pregnancy Complications / metabolism
  • Pregnanolone / biosynthesis*
  • Pregnanolone / blood*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Pregnanolone
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • AKR1C2 protein, human
  • trans-1,2-dihydrobenzene-1,2-diol dehydrogenase
  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase
  • SRD5A1 protein, human
  • SRD5A2 protein, human