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Journal Article

Genetics of age-at-onset in major depression


Mosing,  Miriam A.       
Department of Cognitive Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet;
Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, Faculty for Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences;

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Harder, A., Nguyen, T.-D., Pasman, J. A., Mosing, M. A., Hägg, S., & Lu, Y. (2022). Genetics of age-at-onset in major depression. Translational Psychiatry, 12: 124. doi:10.1038/s41398-022-01888-z.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-3029-2
Major depression (MD) is a complex, heterogeneous neuropsychiatric disorder. An early age at onset of major depression (AAO-MD) has been associated with more severe illness, psychosis, and suicidality. However, not much is known about what contributes to individual variation in this important clinical characteristic. This study sought to investigate the genetic components underlying AAO-MD. To investigate the genetics of AAO-MD, we conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis of AAO-MD based on self-reported age of symptoms onset and self-reported age at first diagnosis from the UK Biobank cohort (total N = 94,154). We examined the genetic relationship between AAO-MD and five other psychiatric disorders. Polygenic risk scores were derived to examine their association with five psychiatric outcomes and AAO-MD in independent sub-samples. We found a small but significant SNP-heritability (~6%) for the AAO-MD phenotype. No SNP or gene reached SNP or gene-level significance. We found evidence that AAO-MD has genetic overlap with MD risk (rg = −0.49). Similarly, we found shared genetic risks between AAO-MD and autism-spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anorexia nervosa (rg range: −0.3 to −0.5). Polygenic risk scores for AAO-MD were associated with MD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, and AAO-MD was in turn associated with polygenic risk scores derived from these disorders. Overall, our results indicate that AAO-MD is heritable, and there is an inverse genetic relationship between AAO-MD and both major depression and other psychiatric disorders, meaning that SNPs associated with earlier age at onset tend to increase the risk for psychiatric disorders. These findings suggest that the genetics of AAO-MD contribute to the shared genetic architecture observed between psychiatric disorders.