Association Between Side Effects and Blood microRNA Expression Levels and Their Targeted Pathways in Patients With Major Depressive Disorder Treated by a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, Escitalopram: A CAN-BIND-1 Report

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2020 Feb 1;23(2):88-95. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyz066.


Introduction: Antidepressant drugs are effective therapies for major depressive disorder; however, they are frequently associated with side effects. Although there is some evidence for a relationship between genetic variation and side effects, little is known regarding the role of dynamic molecular factors as moderators of side effects. The aim of this study was to assess microRNA (miRNA) changes associated with side effects during escitalopram treatment and their downstream effects on target gene expression.

Methods: A total 160 patients with major depressive disorder from the CAN-BIND-1 cohort were included. Side effects were assessed with the Toronto Side Effect Scale after 2 weeks of treatment with escitalopram. We assessed the relationship between side effects and changes in peripheral expression of miRNAs between baseline and week 2. For miRNA whose expression changed, we used target prediction algorithms to identify putative messenger RNA (mRNA) targets and assessed their expression.

Results: Nausea was experienced by 42.5% of patients. We identified 45 miRNAs whose expression changed on initiation of escitalopram treatment, of which 10 displayed a negative association with intensity of nausea (miR15b-5p, miR17-5p, miR20a-5p, miR20b-5p, miR103a-3p, miR103b, miR106a-5p, miR182-5p, miR185-5p, and miR660-5p). Additionally, we found negative associations between 4 microRNAs (miR20a-5p, miR106a-5p, miR185-5p, miR660-5p) and mRNA targets. The expression of the miR185-5p target, CAMK2δ was significantly decreased [log 2 mean = -0.048 (0.233)] between weeks 0 and 2 (P = .01)].

Conclusions: We identified an overexpression of miR185-5p during escitalopram treatment of major depressive disorder, which was negatively associated with intensity of nausea, and identified a potential mRNA target that may mediate this effect.

Keywords: antidepressant; major depressive disorder; miRNA; side effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Citalopram / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood
  • MicroRNAs / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / chemically induced*
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • MicroRNAs
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram