Genetic mutations associated with suicide risk among patients with depression

Feb 01, 2010

Single mutations in genes involved with nerve cell formation and growth appear to be associated with the risk of attempting suicide among individuals with depression, according to a report posted online today that will appear in the April print issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

An estimated 10 to 20 million suicides are attempted each year around the world, and 1 million are completed, according to background information in the article. Patients with psychiatric disorders are more likely to attempt suicide, and those with depression or other mood disorders are at higher risk. "Twin and family studies suggest that suicide and suicide attempts are heritable traits and likely part of the same phenotype, with completed suicide and suicide attempts clustering in the same families," the authors write. "The genetic risk factors for suicide appear to be independent from the underlying psychiatric disorder."

Martin A. Kohli, Ph.D., then of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany, and now of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, Miami, and colleagues investigated genetic variants among 394 , including 113 who had attempted suicide, and 366 matched healthy control participants. The authors then replicated their results in 744 German patients with major depressive disorder (152 of whom had attempted suicide) and 921 African American non-psychiatric clinic patients (119 of whom had attempted suicide).

The researchers investigated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, or variants in a single base pair along a strand of DNA) in two genes associated with the neurotrophic system (which produces proteins involved in nerve cell growth). Five SNPs appeared significantly more common among individuals with a history of suicide attempts. Carriers of the three most significant markers had a 4.5-fold higher risk of attempting suicide than those who carried none of the three mutations.

"The facts that the genetic associations with suicide attempts were stronger when comparing depressed patients with suicide attempts vs. depressed patients without suicide attempts than with healthy control subjects and that these SNPs were not associated with major depressive disorder suggest that these associations are specific to suicide attempts" and not linked to depression in general, the authors write.

"This supports the large body of evidence that dysfunctional neurotrophic signaling might be involved in the pathophysiology of suicidal behavior," they conclude.

Explore further: Religious music brings benefit to seniors' mental health

More information: Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67[4]. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.201

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Elderly suicide risk after previous attempts varies by sex

Sep 28, 2009

In older age groups, repeated suicide attempts constitute an increased risk for completed suicide in depressed women, while severe attempts constitute an increased risk for depressed men. Researchers writing in the open access ...

Post-partum suicide attempt risks studied

Aug 06, 2008

Although maternal suicide after giving birth is a relatively rare occurrence, suicide attempts often have long-lasting effects on the family and the infant. In a study published in the August 2008 issue of the American Jo ...

Recommended for you

Religious music brings benefit to seniors' mental health

5 hours ago

A new article published online in The Gerontologist reports that among older Christians, listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and increases in life satisfaction, self-e ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...