Genetic Risk Marker Found for Depression

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A genetic variant known to be connected to an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease may also be associated with an elevated risk of late-life depression.

Silke Kern, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues looked at the relationship between the epsilon 4 (ε4) allele of the apolipoprotein gene (APOE) and depression in 839 older Swedish adults who were followed for more than five years.

The APOE ε4 allele correctly predicted future depression, even after excluding people who later developed dementia, the researchers reported in the journal Biological Psychiatry. Among subjects without depression at study entry and without dementia or significant cognitive decline during the subsequent nine years, APOE ε4 was prospectively associated with more severe depressive symptoms, incident minor depression, and any depression.

“APOE ε4 might be a marker for identifying older persons at risk to develop depression or dementia, which could be important for prevention and early detection of these common disorders,” Kern said in a statement.

APOE ε4 has also been associated with atherosclerosis as well as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.

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The APOE ε4 allele correctly predicted future depression, even after excluding people who later developed dementia.

One of the most powerful predictors in neuropsychiatry is the epsilon 4 (ε4) allele of the apolipoprotein gene (APOE).

Individuals who carry this ε4 variant of APOE are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, early age of Alzheimer's disease onset, and more rapid progression of Alzheimer's disease symptoms. APOE ε4 has also been associated with atherosclerosis as well as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.

A new study published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry suggests that even when controlling for the risk for Alzheimer's disease, the APOE ε4 allele also conveys an increased risk for late-life depression.

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