The researchers are the first to report the results of a systematic search for chromosomal regions that harbor genes that affect susceptibility to severe depression, the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Their results will be published in the April American Journal of Medical Genetics, but were posted today on the journals Web site.
We suspected there were at least a few different genes involved in making women and men susceptible to major depression, said lead author George S. Zubenko, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and adjunct professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. The results of this study suggest that sex-specific genes for recurrent major depression may actually be the rule rather than the exception.
For the study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Zubenko and his colleagues compared genetic markers from 100 men and women with recurrent, early-onset major depressive disorder (RE-MDD) and 100 people with no history of this disorder, to find out which chromosomal regions were associated with the illness. RE-MDD is a severe form of clinical depression that runs in families and impairs the health and life span of family members.
Out of 19 chromosomal regions that were associated with the development of RE-MDD, 16 were significantly associated with the disorder in either men or women but not both.
According to Dr. Zubenko, these findings suggest important differences in the molecular basis of clinical depression in men and women, or sex-specific differences that determine resistance to stressful events. These genetic factors may also contribute to differences i
Contact: Craig Dunhoff
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center