Gene May Play Key Role in Depression

Scientists have had a tricky time figuring out exactly what causes depression – although it is clear that genetics play a role.

Now, a group of researchers at Yale University say they have identified a key genetic trigger of depression. The gene, MKP-1, might be a central contributor to the onset of clinical depression, according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature Medicine.

“This could be a primary cause, or at least a major contributing factor, to the signaling abnormalities that lead to depression,” said Ronald S. Duman, professor of psychology and pharmacology at Yale, and senior author of the study.

Duman and his team conducted whole genome scans on post-mortem brain tissue samples from 21 people who had been diagnosed with depression, and compared them to the genes of 18 people who had not been diagnosed with the disorder. They found the MKP-1 gene was twice as active in the brain tissues of the depressed individuals.

The findings were particularly exciting for the scientists because they show how the MKP-1 gene triggers depression. Importantly, Duman said, the findings could lead to a whole new class of prescription antidepressants.

Symptoms of depression vary widely from person to person, and scientists believe a broad array of physiological processes are involved. That explains why most people respond differently to the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

“There is a significant limit and unmet need for treating depression,” Duman told the Yale Daily News. “Only one-third of patients respond to the first antidepressant prescribed and only two-thirds of people respond to available medication.” 

In the meantime, depression affects 16 percent of Americans annually and costs the United States $100 billion a year.

“Depression used to be viewed as a weakness not an illness,” Duman also told the Yale Daily News. “Understanding the biochemistry and molecular and cellular changes demonstrates this is a biological illness that has to be treated and taken care of.”

Are you at risk for depression? Here are some symptoms to look for according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Others feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

When to see a doctor

If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. Depression symptoms may not get better on their own — and depression may get worse if it isn’t treated. Untreated depression can lead to other mental and physical health problems or problems in other areas of your life. Feelings of depression can also lead to suicide.

If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.


Photo courtesy of Sasha Wolff


Janine H.
Janine H6 years ago

Thank you for the article. It is sad, when someone is alone. And i hope that other people have someone behaves supportedly towards and who takes them seriously.

Always when i hear about terrible things it makes me sad, and i cannot understand how someone could do something terrible - hurt, rape or kill a person or animal. When i was a child this also happened to me... and surviving this is more terrible than not (parents and other may think different, but a victim?), living with all this pain... living with guilty feelings... full with hate for the own self
No one can understand, because most people cannot imagine this, cannot imagine how much it change. Some of them think, that this would not be so terrible, because all would make some sexual experiences, and so it would not matter if there were some without own interest or wish. This cruel and superficial society makes me sick.

I know that it is not good to wish someone who does terrible things something as a punishment. But when i hear about violent people then i think why are they so "afraid" to go to someone equal and get some hits for their selves. This is a perversion, to think being more a man when beating a woman or a girl. This men are a shame for all normal men.

About me... there is no one who takes me seriously... :( i hate my own life, i wish i would vanish... that no one would have a burden (me) anymore...

Please forgive these sadness

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last

Monique D.
Mon D6 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Nayanika R.
Nayanika R.7 years ago

the only discerning fact that is not entirely addressed , in the singular, is that the cause , is not in doing , what needs to, as it happened with a cousin of mine. He is no more. What is actually more appropriate is that emotional stress is the cardinal reason, which truly results in acute depression. My grandmother who lost two of her loved ones, her daughter and then her husband, in quick succession, just collapsed and the next thing we knew she was like a child, throwing tantrums, and getting her pleas heard and other times was innocent like a lamb, she lived happily till her death. We cared and loved her unconditionally...thank you for reading..

Skye R.
Skye R7 years ago

As someone who's been diagnosed with depression, the prospect of a new type of antidepressant that works with this gene is very exciting. I hope that, if they do look into creating new medications for depressed patients, they are successful in creating something that works well. Very interesting article!

Marco Da Silva
Marco Silva7 years ago

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Trish K.
Trish K7 years ago

Depression is a serious illness. It's a chemical imbalance. You need to eat right, exercise and go to talk therapy if that works.
Medication, if you can take it, helps some people. Untreated depression can end in self medication and suicide.

Julianna D.
Juliana D7 years ago

Thanks for this info.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M7 years ago

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gerlinde p.
gerlinde p7 years ago

interesting read thanks

Lynn Porter
7 years ago

Depression is a symptom of reality.

But together we can change reality
That's why we're Care2.

14 millions people can make a difference.