Genetic risk for major depressive disorder and loneliness in sex-specific associations with coronary artery disease

Jessica Dennis, Julia Sealock, Rebecca T Levinson, Eric Farber-Eger, Jacob Franco, Sarah Fong, Peter Straub, Donald Hucks, Wen-Liang Song, MacRae F Linton, Pierre Fontanillas, Sarah L Elson, Douglas Ruderfer, Abdel Abdellaoui, Sandra Sanchez-Roige, Abraham A Palmer, Dorret I Boomsma, Nancy J Cox, Guanhua Chen, Jonathan D MosleyQuinn S Wells, Lea K Davis

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Major depressive disorder (MDD) and loneliness are phenotypically and genetically correlated with coronary artery disease (CAD), but whether these associations are explained by pleiotropic genetic variants or shared comorbidities is unclear. To tease apart these scenarios, we first assessed the medical morbidity pattern associated with genetic risk factors for MDD and loneliness by conducting a phenome-wide association study in 18,385 European-ancestry individuals in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center biobank, BioVU. Polygenic scores for MDD and loneliness were developed for each person using previously published meta-GWAS summary statistics, and were tested for association with 882 clinical diagnoses ascertained via billing codes in electronic health records. We discovered strong associations with heart disease diagnoses, and next embarked on targeted analyses of CAD in 3893 cases and 4197 controls. We found odds ratios of 1.11 (95% CI, 1.04-1.18; P 8.43 × 10-4) and 1.13 (95% CI, 1.07-1.20; P 4.51 × 10-6) per 1-SD increase in the polygenic scores for MDD and loneliness, respectively. Results were similar in patients without psychiatric symptoms, and the increased risk persisted in females even after adjusting for multiple conventional risk factors and a polygenic score for CAD. In a final sensitivity analysis, we statistically adjusted for the genetic correlation between MDD and loneliness and re-computed polygenic scores. The polygenic score unique to loneliness remained associated with CAD (OR 1.09, 95% CI 1.03-1.15; P 0.002), while the polygenic score unique to MDD did not (OR 1.00, 95% CI 0.95-1.06; P 0.97). Our replication sample was the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort of 7197 European-ancestry participants (1598 incident CAD cases). In ARIC, polygenic scores for MDD and loneliness were associated with hazard ratios of 1.07 (95% CI, 0.99-1.14; P = 0.07) and 1.07 (1.01-1.15; P = 0.03), respectively, and we replicated findings from the BioVU sensitivity analyses. We conclude that genetic risk factors for MDD and loneliness act pleiotropically to increase CAD risk in females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4254-4264
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number8
Early online date3 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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