Transcriptome-wide association study of treatment-resistant depression and depression subtypes for drug repurposing

Chiara Fabbri*, Oliver Pain, Saskia P. Hagenaars, Cathryn M. Lewis, Alessandro Serretti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the single largest contributor to global disability and up to 20–30% of patients do not respond to at least two antidepressants (treatment-resistant depression, TRD). This study leveraged imputed gene expression in TRD to perform a drug repurposing analysis. Among those with MDD, we defined TRD as having at least two antidepressant switches according to primary care records in UK Biobank (UKB). We performed a transcriptome-wide association study (TWAS) of TRD (n = 2165) vs healthy controls (n = 11,188) using FUSION and gene expression levels from 21 tissues. We identified compounds with opposite gene expression signatures (ConnectivityMap data) compared to our TWAS results using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, Spearman and Pearson correlation. As symptom patterns are routinely assessed in clinical practice and could be used to provide targeted treatments, we identified MDD subtypes associated with TRD in UKB and analysed them using the same pipeline described for TRD. Anxious MDD (n = 14,954) and MDD with weight gain (n = 4697) were associated with TRD. In the TWAS, two genes were significantly dysregulated (TMEM106B and ATP2A1 for anxious and weight gain MDD, respectively). A muscarinic receptor antagonist was identified as top candidate for repurposing in TRD; inhibition of heat shock protein 90 was the main mechanism of action identified for anxious MDD, while modulators of metabolism such as troglitazone showed promising results for MDD with weight gain. This was the first TWAS of TRD and associated MDD subtypes. Our results shed light on possible pharmacological approaches in individuals with difficult-to-treat depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1821-1829
Number of pages9
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


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