Scientists discover key genetic trigger of depression

Updated: Oct 18, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Yale researchers have discovered a gene that seems to play a major role in triggering depression.

"This could be a primary cause, or at least a major contributing factor, to the signaling abnormalities that lead to depression," Nature quoted Ronald S. Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale, as saying.

Symptoms of depression vary widely among individuals and people respond differently to most commonly prescribed antidepressants, which work by manipulating the uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

However, currently available medications take weeks to months to produce a therapeutic response.

Duman`s team found that one gene called MKP-1 was increased more than two-fold in the brain tissues of depressed individuals. Duman`s team also found that when the MKP-1 gene is knocked out in mice, the mice become resilient to stress. When the gene is activated, mice exhibit symptoms that mimic depression.

The finding that a negative regulator of a key neuronal signalling pathway is increased in depression also identifies MKP-1 as a potential target for a novel class of therapeutic agents, particularly for treatment resistant depression.

The find is published in the Oct. 17 issue of the journal Nature Medicine.