Metabolomic investigation of major depressive disorder identifies a potentially causal association with polyunsaturated fatty acids

Eleanor Davyson, Xueyi Shen, Danni A Gadd, Elena Bernabeu, Robert F Hillary, Daniel L McCartney, Mark Adams, Riccardo Marioni, Andrew M McIntosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Metabolic differences have been reported between individuals with and without major depressive disorder (MDD), but their consistency and causal relevance have been unclear.

METHODS: We conducted a metabolome-wide association study of MDD with 249 metabolomic measures available in the UK Biobank (n = 29,757). We then applied two-sample bidirectional Mendelian randomization and colocalization analysis to identify potentially causal relationships between each metabolite and MDD.

RESULTS: A total of 191 metabolites tested were significantly associated with MDD (false discovery rate-corrected p < .05), which decreased to 129 after adjustment for likely confounders. Lower abundance of omega-3 fatty acid measures and a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio showed potentially causal effects on liability to MDD. There was no evidence of a causal effect of MDD on metabolite levels. Furthermore, genetic signals associated with docosahexaenoic acid colocalized with loci associated with MDD within the fatty acid desaturase gene cluster. Post hoc Mendelian randomization of gene-transcript abundance within the fatty acid desaturase cluster demonstrated a potentially causal association with MDD. In contrast, colocalization analysis did not suggest a single causal variant for both transcript abundance and MDD liability, but rather the likely existence of two variants in linkage disequilibrium with one another.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that decreased docosahexaenoic acid and increased omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio may be causally related to MDD. These findings provide further support for the causal involvement of fatty acids in MDD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Early online date8 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Feb 2023


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