Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene Variants Protect Against Adult Depression Triggered By Childhood Stress

Date:
February 6, 2008
Source:
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health
Summary:
Adults who were abused as children have about half the symptoms of moderate to severe depression if they have certain variations in a specific gene, compared to people with different variations in the same gene. The gene makes a receptor, on brain cells, for a stress-related hormone. The variations were protective in two separate studies, one mostly of African Americans and the other of whites, across socioeconomic levels.

Certain variations in a gene that helps regulate response to stress tend to protect adults who were abused in childhood from developing depression, according to new research. Adults who had been abused but didn't have the variations in the gene had twice the symptoms of moderate to severe depression, compared to those with the protective variations.

Related Articles


"People's biological variations set the stage for how they respond to different environmental factors, like stress, that can lead to depression," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "Knowing what those variations are eventually could help clinicians individualize care for their patients by predicting who may be at risk or suggesting more precise avenues for treatment."

Almost 15 million U.S. adults have major depression. The new report adds to evidence that a combination of gene variations and life experiences promote the disorder or protect people from it. Variations in many genes are thought to be involved, but few of them have been identified.

The study also supports previous evidence that a stress hormone, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), plays a role in depression. The variations are in a gene that makes a receptor for the hormone. Receptors are proteins that act as binding sites, in or on cells, for chemical messengers that affect cell function. The receptor for CRH is called CRHR1.

CRH and its receptor are part of a larger hormone system that regulates the response to stress, in part by helping to regulate neurotransmission -- the chemical messages through which brain cells communicate with each other. Extreme stress in childhood caused by factors such as abuse can hyperactivate the system, increasing risk of depression in adulthood.

Some pharmaceutical firms are testing compounds that block CRHR1 as potential medications for depression.

The receptor for a hormone acts like a receiver or radar dish for messages sent between cells. CRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release another hormone, adrenocorticotropin, which in turn induces the release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex.

Extreme stress in childhood can over-activate this cascade of hormones, increasing the risk of depression in adulthood, Dr. Ressler says.

"Our results suggest that genetic differences in signals mediated by CRH may amplify or soften the developmental effects that childhood abuse can have -- effects that can raise the risk of depression in adults," he says.

To conduct their research, scientists interviewed 422 adults, mostly African American, and tested their DNA. About one-third of them had the variations in the CRHR1 gene that appear to be somewhat protective if early-life stress has occurred. Of the people in the study who had a history of child abuse, those with certain variations had only about half the symptoms of moderate to severe depression as those who had more common variations in the same gene.

The finding was strengthened when the researchers repeated the study in 199 white adults and came up with similar results. In addition to racial differences, the two groups differed socioeconomically. The combined findings suggest that the gene variations are protective across the ethnic groups and socioeconomic levels.

"We know that childhood abuse and early life stress are among the strongest contributors to adult depression, and this study again brings to light the importance of preventing them," Ressler said. "But when these tragic events do occur, studies like this one ultimately can help us learn how we might be able to better intervene against the pathology that often follows."

Results of the study were published in the February 4 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry by Kerry J. Ressler, M.D., Ph.D., of Emory University, Rebekah G. Bradley, of the Atlanta VA Medical Center, and others.

This research was funded substantially by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Additional research funding from the National Institutes of Health was provided by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Emory University, the Emory and Grady Memorial Hospital General Clinical Research Center, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund also contributed.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. "Gene Variants Protect Against Adult Depression Triggered By Childhood Stress." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204161435.htm>.
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. (2008, February 6). Gene Variants Protect Against Adult Depression Triggered By Childhood Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204161435.htm
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health. "Gene Variants Protect Against Adult Depression Triggered By Childhood Stress." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204161435.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Having children has always been a frightening prospect in Sierra Leone, the world's most dangerous place to give birth, but Ebola has presented an alarming new threat for expectant mothers. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

AP (Nov. 21, 2014) Marine Corps officials say a special operations officer left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony to award him a Bronze Star. (Nov. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins