Study identifies genes potentially linked to depression

Using data from 322,580 UK Biobank participants, researchers found 14 previously unreported gene variants across three depression-related phenotypes

Man clutching head in dark tunnel, depression concept

Researchers have identified 14 new independent risk variants associated with depression following a genome-wide association study of 322,580 people[1]

The researchers used UK Biobank participants and looked at three depression-related phenotypes: broad depression, probable major depressive disorder (MDD) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-coded MDD.

A total of 17 gene variants were identified across the three phenotypes, 14 of which had not been reported before. The researchers found that 14 of the variants were associated with broad depression, two were associated with probable MDD and one was associated with ICD-coded MDD.

The findings were compared with data held by the personal genetics company 23andMe. Of the 17 variants found, 16 had an effect in the same direction as in the 23andMe cohort, with 7 shown to be significant.

Writing in Nature Communications (online, 16 April 2018), the researchers said: “Our results suggest that a broad depression phenotype, which potentially overlaps with other personality and psychiatric traits, may provide a more tractable target for future genetic studies, allowing the inclusion of many more samples.”


[1] Howard D, Adams M, Shirali M et al. Genome-wide association study of depression phenotypes in UK Biobank identifies variants in excitatory synaptic pathways. Nat Comms 1470 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03819-3

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, June 2018, Vol 10, No 6;10(6)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204838

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