Yale University study may have identified a depression gene

Researchers at Yale University say they have identified a gene as a possible cause for depression. The discovery could yield a new version of antidepressants that could target the specific gene known as MKP-1.The study conducted genome scans on tissue samples from 21 dead people who had depression and compared those to tissues samples from healthy people. The MKP-1 gene was more than twice as strong in those who had depression. The researchers then transferred the genes to mice and found the mice displayed depressive behavior associated with too much stress.

According to the study, the MKP-1 gene shuts down a pathway in the brain that causes neurons to not function properly. Previous studies had shown a similar breakdown of the pathways.

Researchers hope the findings can lead to a new class of drugs that can target the gene rather than targeting the chemicals in the brain including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It could revolutionize depression medications which have typically relied on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Negative regulation through dephosphorylation

MKP-1 (Map Kinase Phosphatase -1)

Serum activates signal transduction to nucleus where expression of several genes are activated. One of those genes is MKP-1, whose gene products appear about 20 minutes after the addition of serum. MKP-1 is stabilized by the ERK kinase which is also the substrate for dephosphorylation by MKP-1.