Study identifies gene variant associated with depression

Depression, acomplex mental disorder, can occur for a variety of reasons. While some individuals can become depressed due to a serious medical condition ortragic life event, some may experience depression owing to a family history of the disease. Thoughit’s known that depressive illnesses can run in families, the genetic component has been difficult to determine. Now, a new study has identified a link between depressive symptoms and certain variants in the gene NKPD1.

The study makesresearchers understand the molecular pathology of the disease that could prove helpful in improving diagnoses and treatment of depression. The research, published recently in the journal Biological Psychiatry, was led by co-first authors Najaf Amin ofthe Erasmus University Medical Center, the Netherlands and NadezhdaBelonogova from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

To classify the gene that was associated with depressive symptoms, researchers performed gene-based association analysis of the nonsynonymous variation that was captured using exome-sequencing and exome-chip genotyping. The analysis was first done in a genetically isolated population from the Netherlands. The researchers then reproduced their findings in an independent population-based group. To examine the DNA portions that contained the genetic code to produce the protein, the scientists used whole-exome sequencing and found several variants of NKPD1 to be associated with depressive symptoms.

“By sequencing all of the DNA that codes for mRNA and ultimately, proteins, Dr. Amin and colleagues found a single gene that may account for as much as 4percent of the heritable risk for depression,”said Dr. John Krystal, editor, Biological Psychiatry.

The researchers examined data from the Erasmus Rucphen Family study that consisted of a genetically homogeneous group of people who lived in an isolated village in the Netherlands. Out of the 3,000 study participants, 2,353 showed symptoms of depression. Although the participants also showed an association between NKPD1 and depressive symptoms, it highlighted different variants within NKPD1.

As per the findings, nonsynonymous variation in the gene NKPD1 was found to affect depressive symptoms in the general population. The researchers detected a significant association between the gene, NKPD1 and depressive symptoms. Referring to the predicted role of NKPD1 in the body, Amin said, “The involvement of NKPD1 in the synthesis of sphingolipids and eventually of ceramides is interesting.”Changed sphingolipid levels in the blood have long been linked to depression.

Similar to other mentaldisorders, depression lacks the genetic or biochemical markers to aid in its diagnosis and treatment. As per Amin, NKPD1 may prove to be one such molecular mechanism that will help move depression treatment into an age of precision and personalized medicine.

Road to recovery

Although a person’s genes may be what causes depression, they might also play a role in determining how well he/she responds to antidepressants. Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States.According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2015, more than 16 million people aged 18 years or older in the country had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year.

Depression can engulf almost every aspect of one’s life. When left untreated, this mental illness can be devastating. For those trying to combat depression, seeking professional medical help is important to lead a happy life. If you or a loved one is battling depression or any other mental disorder, the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can help you find one of the best mental health programs for your mental health illness. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our representatives to know about the finest mental health counselors and mental health rehabilitation centers near you.