The development of peripartum depressive symptoms is associated with gene polymorphisms of MAOA, 5-HTT and COMT

Bennard Doornbos, D A Janneke Dijck-Brouwer, Ido P Kema, Marit A C Tanke, Saskia A van Goor, Frits A J Muskiet, Jakob Korf
Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 2009 October 1, 33 (7): 1250-4

BACKGROUND: Polymorphisms of monoamine-related genes have been associated with depression following life events. The peripartum is a physiologically and psychologically challenging period, characterized by fluctuations in depressive symptoms, therefore facilitating prospective investigations in this gene x environment (G x E) interaction.

METHODS: Eighty nine pregnant women filled in two Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) questionnaires during pregnancy and two in the postpartum period. MAOA, COMT and 5-HTT polymorphisms were analyzed.

RESULTS: We found a significant interaction between the development of depressive symptoms in the course of pregnancy and polymorphisms in 5-HTT (p=0.019); MAOA (p=0.044) and COMT (p=0.026), and MAOA x COMT (p<0.001). Particularly, women carrying the combination of low activity variants of MAOA and COMT showed increased EPDS scores at week 36 of pregnancy and 6 weeks postpartum, but not during early pregnancy or 12 weeks postpartum.

CONCLUSION: We found that MAOA in combination with COMT appears to regulate not only the stress response in laboratory experiments, but also seems to influence the stress-evoked onset of mood during normal, mild, stressful events, such as experienced in the peripartum period. These findings support the GxE concept for depression, but they underline the complexity of this concept, as the cumulating effects of these polymorphic genes (i.e. MAOA+COMT) might be needed and the effects of these polymorphic genes becomes apparent in special environmental or physiological conditions (i.e. the peripartum period). We therefore suggest that G x E interactions become especially noticeable from longitudinal study designs in specific physiological or social challenging periods.

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