GWAS and systems biology analysis of depressive symptoms among smokers from the COPDGene cohort

J Affect Disord. 2019 Jan 15:243:16-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.09.003. Epub 2018 Sep 7.


Background: Large sample GWAS is needed to identify genetic factors associated with depression. This study used genome-wide genotypic and phenotypic data from the COPDGene study to identify genetic risk factors for depression.

Methods: Data were from 9716 COPDGene subjects with ≥10 pack-year history. Depression was defined as antidepressant use and/or a HADS depression subscale score ≥8. Non-Hispanic White (6576) and African-American (3140) subsets were analyzed. A GWAS pipeline identified SNPs associated with depression in each group. Network analysis software analyzed gene interactions through common biological pathways, genetic interactions, and tissue-specific gene expression.

Results: The mean age was 59.4 years (SD 9.0) with 46.5% female subjects. Depression was in 24.7% of the NHW group (1622) and 12.5% of the AA group (391). No SNPs had genome-wide significance. One of the top SNPs, rs12036147 (p = 1.28 × 10-6), is near CHRM3. Another SNP was near MDGA2 (rs17118176, p = 3.52 × 10-6). Top genes formed networks for synaptic transmission with a statistically significant level of more co-expression in brain than other tissues, particularly in the basal ganglia (p = 1.00 × 10-4).

Limitations: Limitations included a depression definition based on antidepressant use and a limited HADS score subgroup, which could increase false negatives in depressed patients not on antidepressants. Antidepressants used for smoking cessation in non-depressed patients could lead to false positives.

Conclusions: Systems biology analysis identified statistically significant pathways whereby multiple genes influence depression. The gene set pathway analysis and COPDGene data can help investigate depression in future studies.

Keywords: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Genome-wide association study; Major depressive disorder; Smokers; Systems biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Black or African American / genetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / genetics*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Systems Biology
  • White People / genetics


  • Antidepressive Agents