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The genetics of the mood disorder spectrum: genome-wide association analyses of over 185,000 cases and 439,000 controls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Jonathan R. I. Coleman, Héléna A. Gaspar, Julien Bryois, Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Bipolar Group, Gerome Breen

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological psychiatry
Early online date1 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2020

King's Authors


Mood disorders (including major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder) affect 10-20% of the population. They range from brief, mild episodes to severe, incapacitating conditions that markedly impact lives. Despite their diagnostic distinction, multiple approaches have shown considerable sharing of risk factors across the mood disorders.
To clarify their shared molecular genetic basis, and to highlight disorder-specific associations, we meta-analysed data from the latest Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) genome-wide association studies of major depression (including data from 23andMe) and bipolar disorder, and an additional major depressive disorder cohort from UK Biobank (total: 185,285 cases, 439,741 controls; non-overlapping N = 609,424).
Seventy-three loci reached genome-wide significance in the meta-analysis, including 15 that are novel for mood disorders. More genome-wide significant loci from the PGC analysis of major depression than bipolar disorder reached genome-wide significance. Genetic correlations revealed that type 2 bipolar disorder correlates strongly with recurrent and single episode major depressive disorder. Systems biology analyses highlight both similarities and differences between the mood disorders, particularly in the mouse brain cell types implicated by the expression patterns of associated genes. The mood disorders also differ in their genetic correlation with educational attainment – positive in bipolar disorder but negative in major depressive disorder.
The mood disorders share several genetic associations, and can be combined effectively to increase variant discovery. However, we demonstrate several differences between these disorders. Analysing subtypes of major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder provides evidence for a genetic mood disorders spectrum.

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