Overlapping Alcohol Dependence, Major Depression Risk Locus Detected – GenomeWeb

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A variant in a neuronal patterning-related gene called SEMA3A, which codes for semaphorin 3A, appears to influence susceptibility to both alcohol dependence and major depression in individuals of African American descent, according to new research from a Yale University- and University of Pennsylvania-led team.

As they reported online today in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers did a genome-wide association study that involved thousands of individuals with African American or European American ancestry who were enrolled in a drug and alcohol dependence study spearheaded by Yale and UPenn between early 1999 and January 2015. By incorporating interview-based diagnostic clues related to alcohol dependence and major depression, they identified a SEMA3A SNP with significant ties to both conditions in the African American participants.

More broadly, the GWAS results suggests that alcohol dependence and major depression overlap genetically to some extent, with some cases potentially stemming from one or a few variants impacting both conditions, corresponding author Joel Gelernter, a psychiatry and human genetics researcher at Yale, and his co-authors noted.

Because alcohol dependence and major depression often go hand-in-hand, the investigators reasoned that there may be overlapping genetic contributors to both conditions — a possibility that has been proposed but not demonstrated conclusively in past genetic studies.

For their GWAS, the researchers considered SNP profiles for 7,822 individuals genotyped on Illumina HumanOmni1-Quad or HumanCore Exome arrays, including 4,653 individuals of African American descent and 3,169 European American individuals. More than half of the participants — 4,480 individuals — were men and 3,342 were women.

The team also gleaned each individual’s alcohol dependence and major depression status from semi-structured interviews informed by version IV of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a handbook that spells out and standardizes diagnostic features for a range of conditions.

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