Genome-wide association study of treatment-resistance in depression and meta-analysis of three independent samples

Br J Psychiatry. 2019 Jan;214(1):36-41. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2018.256. Epub 2018 Nov 23.


Background: Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is the most problematic outcome of depression in terms of functional impairment, suicidal thoughts and decline in physical health.AimsTo investigate the genetic predictors of TRD using a genome-wide approach to contribute to the development of precision medicine.

Method: A sample recruited by the European Group for the Study of Resistant Depression (GSRD) including 1148 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) was characterised for the occurrence of TRD (lack of response to at least two adequate antidepressant treatments) and genotyped using the Infinium PsychArray. Three clinically relevant patient groups were considered: TRD, responders and non-responders to the first antidepressant trial, thus outcomes were based on comparisons of these groups. Genetic analyses were performed at the variant, gene and gene-set (i.e. functionally related genes) level. Additive regression models of the outcomes and relevant covariates were used in the GSRD participants and in a fixed-effect meta-analysis performed between GSRD, STAR*D (n = 1316) and GENDEP (n = 761) participants.

Results: No individual polymorphism or gene was associated with TRD, although some suggestive signals showed enrichment in cytoskeleton regulation, transcription modulation and calcium signalling. Two gene sets (GO:0043949 and GO:0000183) were associated with TRD versus response and TRD versus response and non-response to the first treatment in the GSRD participants and in the meta-analysis, respectively (corrected P = 0.030 and P = 0.027).

Conclusions: The identified gene sets are involved in cyclic adenosine monophosphate mediated signal and chromatin silencing, two processes previously implicated in antidepressant action. They represent possible biomarkers to implement personalised antidepressant treatments and targets for new antidepressants.Declaration of interestD.S. has received grant/research support from GlaxoSmithKline and Lundbeck; has served as a consultant or on advisory boards for AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen and Lundbeck. S.M. has been a consultant or served on advisory boards for: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Forest, Johnson & Johnson, Leo, Lundbeck, Medelink, Neurim, Pierre Fabre, Richter. S.K. has received grant/research support from Eli Lilly, Lundbeck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Organon, Sepracor and Servier; has served as a consultant or on advisory boards for AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Lundbeck, Pfizer, Organon, Schwabe, Sepracor, Servier, Janssen and Novartis; and has served on speakers' bureaus for AstraZeneca, Eli Lily, Lundbeck, Schwabe, Sepracor, Servier, Pierre Fabre, Janssen and Neuraxpharm. J.Z. has received grant/research support from Lundbeck, Servier, Brainsway and Pfizer, has served as a consultant or on advisory boards for Servier, Pfizer, Abbott, Lilly, Actelion, AstraZeneca and Roche and has served on speakers' bureaus for Lundbeck, Roch, Lilly, Servier, Pfizer and Abbott. J.M. is a member of the Board of the Lundbeck International Neuroscience Foundation and of Advisory Board of Servier. A.S. is or has been consultant/speaker for: Abbott, AbbVie, Angelini, Astra Zeneca, Clinical Data, Boehringer, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Innovapharma, Italfarmaco, Janssen, Lundbeck, Naurex, Pfizer, Polifarma, Sanofi and Servier. C.M.L. receives research support from RGA UK Services Limited.

Trial registration: NCT00021528.

Keywords: GWAS; Treatment-resistant depression; antidepressants; pathway; polymorphism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide

Associated data