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Genome-wide Association for Major Depression Through Age at Onset Stratification

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Robert Power, Katherine Tansey, Henriette Nørmølle Buttenschøn, Sarah Cohen-Woods, Tim Bigdeli, Psychiatric Genomics Consortium MDD Working Group, Lynsey S. Hall, Zoltán Kutalik, S. Hong Lee, Stephan Ripke, Stacy Steinberg, Alexander Teumer, Alexander Viktorin, Naomi R Wray, Bernard T. Baune, Dorret I Boomsma, Anders D Børglum, Enda M. Byrne, Enrique Castelao, Nick Craddock & 59 more Ian Craig, Udo Dannlowski, Ian J. Deary, Franziska Degenhardt, Andreas J. Forstner, Scott D. Gordon, Hans Joergen Grabe, Jakob Grove, Steven P. Hamilton, Caroline Hayward, Andrew C. Heath, Lynne J. Hocking, Georg Homuth, Jouke J. Hottenga, Stefan Kloiber, Jesper Krogh, Mikael Landen, Maren Lang, Douglas F. Levinson, Paul Lichtenstein, Susanne Lucae, Pamela A.F. Madden, Donald J Macintyre, Patrik K.E. Magnusson, Nicholas G. Martin, Andrew M McIntosh, Christel M. Middeldorp, Yuri Milaneschi, Grant W. Montgomery, Ole Mors, Bertram Müller-Myhsok, Dale R. Nyholt, Hogni Oskarsson, Michael J. Owen, Sandosh Padmanabhan, Brenda W.J.H. Penninx, Michele L. Pergadia, David J Porteous, James B. Potash, Martin Preisig, Margarita Rivera Sanchez, Jianxin Shi, Engilbert Sigurdsson, Stanley I Shyn, Johannes H. Smit, Blair H. Smith, Hreinn Stefansson, Kari Stefansson, Jana Strohmaier, Patrick F. Sullivan, Pippa Thomson, Thorgeir E. Thorgeirsson, Sandra Van der Auwera Affiliations, Myrna M. Weissman, Cardiogram Consortium, Gerome Daniel Breen, Cathryn Mair Lewis, CONVERGE Consortium, GERAD1 Consortium:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-335
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date24 May 2016
Accepted/In press5 May 2016
E-pub ahead of print24 May 2016
Published15 Feb 2017


King's Authors


Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a disabling mood disorder and, despite a known heritable component, a large meta-analysis of GWAS revealed no replicable genetic risk variants. Given prior evidence of heterogeneity by age-at-onset (AAO) in MDD, we tested whether genome-wide significant risk variants for MDD could be identified in cases subdivided by AAO. 
Method: Discovery case-control GWASs were performed where cases were stratified using increasing/decreasing AAO-cutoffs; significant SNPs were tested in nine independent replication samples, giving a total sample of 22,158 cases and 133,749 controls for sub-setting. Polygenic score analysis was used to examine if differences in shared genetic risk exists between earlier and adult onset MDD with commonly co-morbid disorders of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, and coronary artery disease.
Results: We identify one replicated genome-wide significant locus associated with adult-onset (>27 years) MDD (rs7647854, OR=1.16, 95%CI=1.11-1.21, p=5.2x10-11). Using polygenic score analyses, we show that earlier-onset MDD is genetically more similar to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder than adult-onset. 
Conclusions: We demonstrate that using additional phenotype data previously collected by genetic studies to tackle phenotypic heterogeneity in MDD can successfully lead to the discovery of genetic risk factor despite reduced sample size. Furthermore, our results suggest that the genetic susceptibility to MDD differs between adult- and earlier-onset MDD, with earlier-onset cases having a greater genetic overlap with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

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