Despite its substantial clinical importance, specific genetic variants associated with depression have not yet been identified. We sought to identify genetic variants associated with depression by (a) focusing on a more homogenous subsample (vascular depression) and (b) applying a three-stage approach. First, we contacted 730 participants with a confirmed atherosclerotic disease (coronary artery disease) from a population-based study population (German Myocardial Infarction Family Study IV) for psychiatric assessment with the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview. Second, we genotyped these patients using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays. Third, we characterized the SNP via in-silico analysis. The final sample consisted of 342 patients (78.3% male, age = 63.2 ± 9.9 years), 22.8% with a severe depressive disorder. Variant rs528732638 on chromosome 18q11.2 was a genome-wide significant variant and was associated with 3.6-fold increase in the odds of lifetime depression. The locus belongs to a linkage disequilibrium block showing expression quantitative trait loci effects on three putative cis-regulated genes, including the aquaporin 4 (AQP4) locus. AQP4 is already known to mediate the formation of ischemic edema in the brain and heart, increasing the size and extent of resulting lesions. Our findings indicate that AQP4 may also play a role in the etiopathology of vascular depression.
Keywords: AQP4; aquaporin; chromosome 18q11.2; coronary artery disease; genome-wide association study; late-onset depression; vascular depression.