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1.  No Effect of Serotoninergic Gene Variants on Response to Interpersonal Counseling and Antidepressants in Major Depression 
Psychiatry Investigation  2013;10(2):180-189.
Gene variants within the serotonin pathway have been associated with major depressive disorder (MDD) treatment outcomes, however a possible different modulation on pharmacological or psychological treatments has never been investigated.
One hundred sixty MDD patients were partially randomized to either inter-personal counseling (IPC) or antidepressants. The primary outcome was remission at week 8. Five serotonergic polymorphisms were investigated (COMT rs4680, HTR1A rs6295, HTR2A rs2224721, HTR2A rs7997012 and SLC6A4 rs421417).
IPC (n=43) and antidepressant (n=117) treated patients did not show any difference in remission rates at week 8 (corrected for baseline severity, age and center). None of the studied gene variants impacted on response and remission rates at week 8 neither in the IPC nor in the antidepressant group. An analysis of the whole sample showed a trend of association between rs7997012 AA genotype and a better treatment outcome.
Our study confirms that IPC is an effective psychological intervention comparable to antidepressants in mild-moderate MDD. Polymorphisms related to the serotonin system did not exert a major effect on clinical outcomes in none of the treatment groups.
PMCID: PMC3687053  PMID: 23798967
Antidepressants; Psychotherapy; 5-HT; 5-HT1A receptor; 5-HT2A receptor; Serotonin transporter; COMT; Genes; Polymorphism; Major depression
2.  No Association of a Set of Candidate Genes on Haloperidol Side Effects 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e44853.
We previously investigated a sample of patients during an active phase of psychosis in the search for genetic predictors of haloperidol induced side effects. In the present work we extend the genetic association analysis to a wider panel of genetic variations, including 508 variations located in 96 genes. The original sample included 96 patients. An independent group of 357 patients from the CATIE study served as a replication sample. Outcomes in the investigation sample were the variation through time of: 1) the ESRS and UKU total scores 2) ESRS and UKU subscales (neurologic and psychic were included) related to tremors and 3) ESRS and UKU subscales that do not relate to tremors. Outcome in the replication sample was the presence vs absence of motoric side effects from baseline to visit 1 (∼ one month of treatment) as assessed by the AIMS scale test. Rs2242480 located in the CYP3A4 was associated with a different distribution of the UKU neurologic scores through time (permutated p = 0.047) along with a trend for a different haloperidol plasma levels (lower in CC subjects). This finding was not replicated in the CATIE sample. In conclusion, we did not find conclusive evidence for a major association between the investigated variations and haloperidol induced motoric side effects
PMCID: PMC3471928  PMID: 23077486
3.  Genetics of Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease: Update from the Alzgene Database and Analysis of Shared Pathways 
The genetics of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) has taken impressive steps forwards in the last few years. To date, more than six-hundred genes have been linked to the disorder. However, only a minority of them are supported by a sufficient level of evidence. This review focused on such genes and analyzed shared biological pathways. Genetic markers were selected from a web-based collection (Alzgene). For each SNP in the database, it was possible to perform a meta-analysis. The quality of studies was assessed using criteria such as size of research samples, heterogeneity across studies, and protection from publication bias. This produced a list of 15 top-rated genes: APOE, CLU, PICALM, EXOC3L2, BIN1, CR1, SORL1, TNK1, IL8, LDLR, CST3, CHRNB2, SORCS1, TNF, and CCR2. A systematic analysis of gene ontology terms associated with each marker showed that most genes were implicated in cholesterol metabolism, intracellular transport of beta-amyloid precursor, and autophagy of damaged organelles. Moreover, the impact of these genes on complement cascade and cytokine production highlights the role of inflammatory response in AD pathogenesis. Gene-gene and gene-environment interactions are prominent issues in AD genetics, but they are not specifically featured in the Alzgene database.
PMCID: PMC3235576  PMID: 22191060
4.  The Influence of Genetic and Environmental Factors among MDMA Users in Cognitive Performance 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27206.
This study is aimed to clarify the association between MDMA cumulative use and cognitive dysfunction, and the potential role of candidate genetic polymorphisms in explaining individual differences in the cognitive effects of MDMA. Gene polymorphisms related to reduced serotonin function, poor competency of executive control and memory consolidation systems, and high enzymatic activity linked to bioactivation of MDMA to neurotoxic metabolites may contribute to explain variations in the cognitive impact of MDMA across regular users of this drug. Sixty ecstasy polydrug users, 110 cannabis users and 93 non-drug users were assessed using cognitive measures of Verbal Memory (California Verbal Learning Test, CVLT), Visual Memory (Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test, ROCFT), Semantic Fluency, and Perceptual Attention (Symbol Digit Modalities Test, SDMT). Participants were also genotyped for polymorphisms within the 5HTT, 5HTR2A, COMT, CYP2D6, BDNF, and GRIN2B genes using polymerase chain reaction and TaqMan polymerase assays. Lifetime cumulative MDMA use was significantly associated with poorer performance on visuospatial memory and perceptual attention. Heavy MDMA users (>100 tablets lifetime use) interacted with candidate gene polymorphisms in explaining individual differences in cognitive performance between MDMA users and controls. MDMA users carrying COMT val/val and SERT s/s had poorer performance than paired controls on visuospatial attention and memory, and MDMA users with CYP2D6 ultra-rapid metabolizers performed worse than controls on semantic fluency. Both MDMA lifetime use and gene-related individual differences influence cognitive dysfunction in ecstasy users.
PMCID: PMC3217947  PMID: 22110616
5.  Pharmacogenetics of antidepressant response 
Personalized medicine — the adaptation of therapies based on an individual’s genetic and molecular profile — is one of the most promising aspects of modern medicine. The identification of the relation between genotype and drug response, including both the therapeutic effect and side effect profile, is expected to deeply affect medical practice. In this paper, we review the current knowledge about the genes related to antidepressant treatment response and provide methodologic proposals for future studies. We have mainly focused on genes associated with pharmacodynamics, for which a list of promising genes has been identified despite some inconsistency across studies. We have also synthesized the main results for pharmacokinetic genes, although so far they seem less relevant than those for pharmacodynamic genes. We discuss possible reasons for these inconsistent findings and propose new study designs.
PMCID: PMC3044192  PMID: 21172166
6.  Pharmacogenetics of Antidepressants 
Up to 60% of depressed patients do not respond completely to antidepressants (ADs) and up to 30% do not respond at all. Genetic factors contribute for about 50% of the AD response. During the recent years the possible influence of a set of candidate genes as genetic predictors of AD response efficacy was investigated by us and others. They include the cytochrome P450 superfamily, the P-glycoprotein (ABCB1), the tryptophan hydroxylase, the catechol-O-methyltransferase, the monoamine oxidase A, the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR), the norepinephrine transporter, the dopamine transporter, variants in the 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors (5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, 5-HT3A, 5-HT3B, and 5-HT6), adrenoreceptor beta-1 and alpha-2, the dopamine receptors (D2), the G protein beta 3 subunit, the corticotropin releasing hormone receptors (CRHR1 and CRHR2), the glucocorticoid receptors, the c-AMP response-element binding, and the brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Marginal associations were reported for angiotensin I converting enzyme, circadian locomotor output cycles kaput protein, glutamatergic system, nitric oxide synthase, and interleukin 1-beta gene. In conclusion, gene variants seem to influence human behavior, liability to disorders and treatment response. Nonetheless, gene × environment interactions have been hypothesized to modulate several of these effects.
PMCID: PMC3108562  PMID: 21687501
pharmacogenetics; antidepressants; gene; SNP; depression
7.  Epistasis between IL1A, IL1B, TNF, HTR2A, 5-HTTLPR and TPH2 Variations Does Not Impact Alcohol Dependence Disorder Features 
We assessed a set of biological (HDL, LDL, SGOT, SGPT, GGT, HTc, Hb and T levels) and psychometric variables (investigated through HAM-D, HAM-A, GAS, Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale, Mark & Mathews Scale, Leyton scale, and Pilowski scale) in a sample of 64 alcohol dependent patients, at baseline and after a detoxification treatment. Moreover, we recruited 47 non-consanguineous relatives who did not suffer alcohol related disorders and underwent the same tests. In both groups we genotyped 11 genetic variations (rs1800587; rs3087258; rs1799724; 5-HTTLPR; rs1386493; rs1386494; rs1487275; rs1843809; rs4570625; rs2129575; rs6313) located in genes whose impact on alcohol related behaviors and disorders has been hypothesized (IL1A, IL1B, TNF, 5-HTTLPR, TPH2 and HTR2A). We analyzed the epistasis of these genetic variations upon the biological and psychological dimensions in the cases and their relatives. Further on, we analyzed the effects of the combined genetic variations on the short – term detoxification treatment efficacy. Finally, being the only not yet investigated variation within this sample, we analyzed the impact of the rs6313 alone on baseline assessment and treatment efficacy. We detected the following results: the couple rs6313 + rs2129575 affected the Leyton -Trait at admission (p = 0.01) (obsessive-compulsive trait), whilst rs1800587 + 5-HTTLPR impacted the Pilowski test at admission (p = 0.01) (hypochondriac symptoms). These results did not survive Bonferroni correction (p ≤ 0.004). This lack of association may depend on the incomplete gene coverage or on the small sample size which limited the power of the study. On the other hand, it may reflect a substantial absence of relevance of the genotype variants toward the alcohol related investigated dimensions. Nonetheless, the marginal significance we detected could witness an informative correlation worth investigating in larger samples.
PMCID: PMC2738893  PMID: 19742166
gene; alcohol dependence; IL1A; IL1B; TNF; 5HTPR; HTR2A; TPH2; association
8.  Pharmacogenetics of antidepressant response: An update 
Human Genomics  2009;3(3):257-274.
The past few decades have witnessed much progress in the field of pharmacogenetics. The identification of the genetic background that regulates the antidepressant response has benefited from these advances. This review focuses on the pharmacogenetics of the antidepressant response through the analysis and discussion of the most compelling evidence in this line of research. Online databases (Medline and PsycINFO) have been searched and the most replicated association findings relating to the genetics of the antidepressant response have been reported and discussed. Some replicated findings in the literature have suggested the serotonin transporter promoter (5-HTTLPR), serotonin receptor 1A (HTR1A), serotonin receptor 2A (HTR2A), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), corticotropin releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1) and FK506 binding protein 5 (FKBP5) as putative regulators of the antidepressant response. A high rate of failure of replication has also been reported.
Pharmacogenetics will hopefully provide the basis for personalised antidepressant treatment that is able to maximise the probability of a good response and to minimise side effects; however, this goal is not achievable at the moment. The extent of the validity of the replicated findings and the reasons for the poor results obtained from studies of the pharmacogenetics of the antidepressant response are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3500192  PMID: 19403460
pharmacogenetics; gene; antidepressant response; association study; candidate; genome-wide association
9.  Effect of the Dysbindin Gene on Antimanic Agents in Patients with Bipolar I Disorder 
Psychiatry Investigation  2008;5(2):102-105.
We previously reported an association between dysbindin gene (DTNBP1) variants and bipolar I disorder (BID). This paper expands upon previous findings suggesting that DTNBP1 variants may play a role in the response to acute mood stabilizer treatment.
A total of 45 BID patients were treated with antimanic agents (lithium, valproate, or carbamazepine) for an average of 36.52 (±19.87) days. After treatment, the patients were evaluated using the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale and the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and genotyped for their DTNBP1 variants (rs3213207 A/G, rs1011313 C/T, rs2005976 G/A, rs760761 C/T and rs2619522 A/C).
There was no association between the variants investigated and response to mood stabilizer treatment, even after considering possible stratification factors.
Although the small number of subjects is an important limitation in our study, DTNBP1 does not seem to be involved in acute antimanic efficacy.
PMCID: PMC2796018  PMID: 20046352
Pharmacogenetics; Dysbindin; Bipolar disorder; Antimanic agents
10.  Incomplete Coverage of Candidate Genes: A Poorly Considered Bias 
Current Genomics  2007;8(7):476-483.
Current genetic investigations are performed both on the basis of a rational and biologically based choice of candidate genes and through genome wide scans. Nonetheless, lack of replication is a common problem in psychiatric genetics as well as in other genetic fields. There are a number of reasons for this inconsistency, among them a well known but poorly considered issue is gene coverage. The aim of the present paper is to focus on this well known and defectively deemed bias, especially when a candidate gene approach is chosen. The rational and the technical feasibility of this proposal are discussed as well as a survey of current investigations. The known consistent methodology to fix this bias is also discussed.
PMCID: PMC2647155  PMID: 19412419
Candidate genes; association studies; psychiatry genetics; methodology.
11.  Dissecting the determinants of depressive disorders outcome: an in depth analysis of two clinical cases 
Clinicians face everyday the complexity of depression. Available pharmacotherapies and psychotherapies improve patients suffering in a large part of subjects, however up to half of patients do not respond to treatment. Clinicians may forecast to a good extent if a given patient will respond or not, based on a number of data and sensations that emerge from face to face assessment. Conversely, clinical predictors of non response emerging from literature are largely unsatisfactory.
Here we try to fill this gap, suggesting a comprehensive assessment of patients that may overcome the limitation of standardized assessments and detecting the factors that plausibly contribute to so marked differences in depressive disorders outcome.
For this aim we present and discuss two clinical cases. Mr. A was an industrial manager who came to psychiatric evaluation with a severe depressive episode. His employment was demanding and the depressive episode undermined his capacity to manage it. Based on standardized assessment, Mr. A condition appeared severe and potentially dramatic. Mrs. B was a housewife who came to psychiatric evaluation with a moderate depressive episode. Literature predictors would suggest Mrs. B state as associated with a more favourable outcome.
However the clinician impression was not converging with the standardized assessment and in fact the outcome will reverse the prediction based on the initial formal standard evaluation.
Although the present report is based on two clinical cases and no generalizability is possible, a more detailed analysis of personality, temperament, defense mechanisms, self esteem, intelligence and social adjustment may allow to formalize the clinical impressions used by clinicians for biologic and pharmacologic studies.
PMCID: PMC1797808  PMID: 17286859
12.  Metabolic risk factor profile associated with use of second generation antipsychotics: a cross sectional study in a community mental health centre 
BMC Psychiatry  2006;6:11.
Second generation antipsychotics (SGA) have demonstrated several advantages over first generation antipsychotics (FGA) in terms of positive, negative, cognitive, and affective symptoms and a lower propensity for extrapyramidal side effects. Despite these undeniable advantages, SGA have been associated with causing and exacerbating metabolic disorders, such as obesity, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia. This cross sectional study aimed to evaluate the metabolic risk factor profile associated with use of SGAs in comparison with non -treated control patients.
The study was carried out at a Community Mental Health Centre (CMHC) in Bologna. The study subjects were outpatients with serious mental disorders treated with SGA (clozapine, olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine). A sample of adult men and women suffering from idiopathic hyperhydrosis, without psychiatric history or antipsychotic treatment, were randomly selected from outpatients of the Department of Neurology in Bologna as a reference group. We investigated differences among the treatment and reference groups for glycaemia, cholesterolaemia and triglyceridaemia levels.
The study sample was composed of 76 patients, 38 males and 38 females. The reference group was composed of 36 subjects, 19 females and 17 males. All patients treated with SGAs had higher mean glycaemia and triglyceridaemia and a significantly higher risk of receiving a diagnosis of hyperglycaemia and hypertriglyceridaemia than the reference group. We did not find any differences in mean glycaemia or mean triglyceridaemia levels among treatment groups. Patients with clozapine had a significantly higher mean BMI value and rate of obesity than patients treated with other SGAs.
The rate of obesity and metabolic disorders observed in this study were higher than the prevalence in the control group and similar to that previously reported in psychiatric samples; these findings imply per se that more attention should be paid to the metabolic condition of psychiatric patients. In line with the International Consensus Conferences we recommend that monitoring of weight, fasting plasma glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels be obtained in routine clinical practice with all antipsychotics.
PMCID: PMC1435746  PMID: 16542430
13.  Influence of postpartum onset on the course of mood disorders 
BMC Psychiatry  2006;6:4.
To ascertain the impact of postpartum onset (PPO) on the subsequent time course of mood disorders.
This retrospective study compared per year rates of excited (manic or mixed) and depressive episodes between fifty-five women with bipolar (N = 22) or major depressive (N = 33) disorders with first episode occurring postpartum (within four weeks after childbirth according to DSM-IV definition) and 218 non-postpartum onset (NPPO) controls. Such patients had a traceable illness course consisting of one or more episodes alternating with complete symptom remission and no additional diagnoses of axis I disorders, mental retardation or brain organic diseases. A number of variables reported to influence the course of mood disorders were controlled for as possible confounding factors
Bipolar women with postpartum onset disorder had fewer excited episodes (p = 0.005) and fewer episodes of both polarities (p = 0.005) compared to non-postpartum onset subjects. No differences emerged in the rates of depressive episodes. All patients who met criteria for rapid cycling bipolar disorder (7 out of 123) were in the NPPO group. Among major depressives, PPO patients experienced fewer episodes (p = 0.016). With respect to clinical and treatment features, PPO-MDD subjects had less personality disorder comorbidity (p = 0.023) and were less likely to be on maintenance treatment compared to NPPO comparison subjects (p = 0.002)
Such preliminary findings suggest that PPO mood disorders may be characterized by a less recurrent time course. Future research in this field should elucidate the role of comorbid personality disorders and treatment. Moreover it should clarify whether PPO disorders are also associated with a more positive outcome in terms of social functioning and quality of life.
PMCID: PMC1373619  PMID: 16438725
14.  Neural network analysis in pharmacogenetics of mood disorders 
BMC Medical Genetics  2004;5:27.
The increasing number of available genotypes for genetic studies in humans requires more advanced techniques of analysis. We previously reported significant univariate associations between gene polymorphisms and antidepressant response in mood disorders. However the combined analysis of multiple gene polymorphisms and clinical variables requires the use of non linear methods.
In the present study we tested a neural network strategy for a combined analysis of two gene polymorphisms. A Multi Layer Perceptron model showed the best performance and was therefore selected over the other networks. One hundred and twenty one depressed inpatients treated with fluvoxamine in the context of previously reported pharmacogenetic studies were included. The polymorphism in the transcriptional control region upstream of the 5HTT coding sequence (SERTPR) and in the Tryptophan Hydroxylase (TPH) gene were analysed simultaneously.
A multi layer perceptron network composed by 1 hidden layer with 7 nodes was chosen. 77.5 % of responders and 51.2% of non responders were correctly classified (ROC area = 0.731 – empirical p value = 0.0082). Finally, we performed a comparison with traditional techniques. A discriminant function analysis correctly classified 34.1 % of responders and 68.1 % of non responders (F = 8.16 p = 0.0005).
Overall, our findings suggest that neural networks may be a valid technique for the analysis of gene polymorphisms in pharmacogenetic studies. The complex interactions modelled through NN may be eventually applied at the clinical level for the individualized therapy.
PMCID: PMC539307  PMID: 15588300

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