Gene for Depression Discovered

Play a role in mood disorders and shorter lifespan

By Colin Allen, published on July 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

Depression may run in the family. After surveying the entire human
genome, University of Pittsburg researchers have found a group of genes
that makes some people--women more than men--susceptible to depression.
Additionally, people with these genes appear to have shorter
lifespans.

Although many scientists disagree, depression is between 40 and 70
percent genetic, asserts George Zubenko, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry
at the University of Pittsburgh. He found 19 loci--small regions on the
chromosomes where genes reside--is associated with depressive disorders.
Loci can be sex-specific, and more of these depressive loci were found in
women's genomes. Zubenko notes that this genetic difference may help
explain, at least partially, why more women suffer depression than men.
Only one loci was unique to men.

Families with these genetic patterns lived eight years shorter than
average. Over 40 percent of those in the survey died before the age of
65. Most of these early deaths came from heart disease, cancer and
stroke.

Eighty-one families participated in the survey. Each had a family
member with an early-onset, major depressive disorder. This form of
depression is known to run in families.

Zubenko's findings are an extension of his previous research that
linked a gene known as CREB1 to depression. The CREB1 gene appears to
interact with the 19 loci found the current study. Further research may
help researchers develop a new genetically-focused treatment of the
disease. The study was published July in the
American Journal of Medical Genetics.