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Genome-wide approaches to antidepressant treatment: working towards understanding and predicting response

Karen Hodgson1*, Shaista Jeelani Mufti2, Rudolf Uher13 and Peter McGuffin1

Author Affiliations

1 MRC SGDP Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, SE5 A8F, UK

2 Barts and the London Royal Hospital, Whitechapel, London, E1 1BB, UK

3 Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada, B3H 2E2

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Genome Medicine 2012, 4:52  doi:10.1186/gm351

Published: 27 June 2012


Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed drugs, and a range of medications are available. However, treatment response to a particular drug varies greatly between patients, with only 30% of patients responding well to the first treatment administered. Given evidence that antidepressant treatment response is a heritable trait, together with technological advances in genetic research, three recently published genome-wide investigations into antidepressant responses have examined the determinants of variability in treatment outcomes between depressed patients. Here, we review these studies within the context of wider research efforts to identify treatment response predictors. Some interesting genes have been implicated, but no variants have yet been robustly and reliably linked to response. This may suggest that genetic effect sizes are smaller than originally anticipated. Candidate gene approaches in these samples have lent support to the involvement of serotonergic, glutamatergic and stress-response systems in treatment response, although corroborative evidence from genome-wide analyses indicates these results should be interpreted cautiously. Closer examination of antidepressant response, considering it as a complex trait, has indicated that multiple genes of small effect are likely to be involved. Furthermore, there is some evidence that genetic influence on response to treatment may vary between patients with different symptom profiles or environmental exposures. This has implications for the translation of pharmacogenetic findings into clinical practice: genotypic information from multiple loci and data on non-genetic factors are likely to be needed to tailor antidepressant treatment to the individual patient.

Antidepressants; genome-wide analysis; personalized treatment; pharmacogenetics; pharmacogenomics; treatment response