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Mol Psychiatry. 2007 Sep;12(9):799-814. Epub 2007 Apr 10.

Molecular studies of major depressive disorder: the epigenetic perspective.

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The Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON, Canada.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common and highly heterogeneous psychiatric disorder encompassing a spectrum of symptoms involving deficits to a range of cognitive, psychomotor and emotional processes. As is the norm for aetiological studies into the majority of psychiatric phenotypes, particular focus has fallen on the interplay between genetic and environmental factors. There are, however, several epidemiological, clinical and molecular peculiarities associated with MDD that are hard to explain using traditional gene- and environment-based approaches. Our goal in this study is to demonstrate the benefits of looking beyond conventional 'DNA+environment' and 'DNA x environment' aetiological paradigms. Epigenetic factors - inherited and acquired modifications of DNA and histones that regulate various genomic functions occurring without a change in nuclear DNA sequence - offer new insights about many of the non-Mendelian features of major depression, and provide a direct mechanistic route via which the environment can interact with the genome. The study of epigenetics, especially in complex diseases, is a relatively new field of research, and optimal laboratory techniques and analysis methods are still being developed. Incorporating epigenetic research into aetiological studies of MDD thus presents a number of methodological and interpretive challenges that need to be addressed. Despite these difficulties, the study of DNA methylation and histone modifications has the potential to transform our understanding about the molecular aetiology of complex diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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