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