Genetic link to depression in Huntington's disease

Proof of genetic link to depression in Huntington's disease may improve treatment of broader depressive illnesses

A common symptom in Huntington's disease (HD), a fatal disease of the brain, is the development of depression. Until now, the reasons why there is an increased incidence of depression in HD were unclear.

A study undertaken by Dr Terence Pang, A/Prof. Anthony Hannan and colleagues, of the Florey Neuroscience Institutes in Melbourne, has shown for the first time a genetic link between depression and HD in an animal model.

The study has further shown that anti-depressant drugs and a regime of physical and mental activity through environmental enrichment alters the receptors in the brain and actually stops depression like behaviours in female mice.

Dr Pang said, "This is the first time a model of HD has been shown to have depression-like behaviours, and the first time it has been shown to be rescued by environmental enrichment."

Dr Pang went on to explain that the implications of this research are broader than depression in HD alone. "We think we have identified this as a model of broader relevance to depression in the general community, but this idea needs to be tested with further research.

The new data on key molecules associated with depression, presented in our paper, may also be informative with respect to the development of new anti-depressant drugs," Dr Pang said.

This research paper by Dr Pang and colleagues titled 'Altered serotonin receptor expression is associated with depression-related behaviour in the R6/1 transgenic mouse model of Huntington's disease' will be published by Oxford University Press in the February issue of the international journal Human Molecular Genetics.