Using the High-Risk Family Design to Identify Biomarkers for Major Depression.

Using the high-risk family design to identify biomarkers for major depression.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013; 368(1615): 20120129
Talati A, Weissman MM, Hamilton SP

The familial nature of major depressive disorder (MDD) is now well recognized. We followed children and grandchildren of probands with and without MDD to examine transmission of depression over generations, and to identify early vulnerability markers prior to the onset of disease. The study now includes three generations and five completed assessment waves spanning 25 years, with a sixth wave underway. Beginning with the fourth wave, we collected measures of brain structure (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI) and physiology (electroencephalography, EEG) and DNA in order to examine at a biological level why the offspring of depressed parents were at higher risk. In this paper, we provide an overview of the study design, the main findings, including new data, and the role of the high-risk design in translational research. We demonstrate that offspring of depressed parents (‘high-risk’), when compared with those of non-depressed parents (‘low-risk’), were at increased risk for depressive and anxiety disorders, with anxiety appearing earlier and being a predisposing factor for MDD. Offspring with two generations previously affected were at greatest risk. Thinning of the cortical mantle (MRI) and reduced resting-state activity (EEG) within the right parieto-temporal hemisphere differentiated high- from low-risk offspring, regardless of whether the offspring had MDD, suggesting that these measures might serve as familial trait markers for depression and related syndromes. The high- and low-risk offspring also differed by serotonin transporter promoter length polymorphism genotypes, even though the same genotypes were not associated with the presence of MDD. The high-risk epidemiological design appears to be a particularly valuable asset in translational research as it allows targeting of biological processes that emerge prior to the onset of disease, and identifies individuals at high risk for the disorder who may carry the trait or marker but not yet be affected. HubMed – depression


Imaging the serotonin 1A receptor using [11C]WAY100635 in healthy controls and major depression.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013; 368(1615): 20120004
Hesselgrave N, Parsey RV

As a neurotransmitter, serotonin (5-HT) is widely used throughout the brain and known to play a role in many processes including emotion and brain development. Of the 15 subtypes of 5-HT receptors, the 1A receptor (5-HT(1A)) has been implicated in depression and suicide. Using the [carbonyl-(11)C]WAY100635 ([(11)C]WAY) ligand and positron emission tomography, we have studied the 5-HT(1A) receptor, first in a group of healthy controls, then in two separate groups of subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) (antidepressant exposed and not recently medicated), and, lastly, in a group of subjects remitted from MDD. All MDD subjects were medication-free at the time of scan. We found higher 5-HT(1A) binding potential (BP(F)) in MDD subjects not recently exposed to an antidepressant compared with controls and recently medicated MDD subjects; and higher BP(F) in subjects with the C(-1019)G promoter polymorphism. We replicated these findings in a novel cohort and reconciled our discrepant findings with other groups using alternate quantification techniques. We also reported higher BP(F) in subjects remitted from a major depressive episode than in controls. From this work, we proposed a temporal model in which 5-HT(1A) BP(F) may be a trait abnormality of MDD. To further explore the genetic components of MDD and utility of 5-HT(1A) imaging as a potential tool for biomarker or treatment response prediction, these findings should be replicated in a larger cohort using the [(11)C]CUMI-101 agonist tracer. HubMed – depression