Interaction between the MTHFR C677T polymorphism and traumatic childhood events predicts depression

A Lok, C L H Bockting, M W J Koeter, H Snieder, J Assies, R J T Mocking, C H Vinkers, R S Kahn, M P Boks, A H Schene

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Childhood trauma is associated with the onset and recurrence of major depressive disorder (MDD). The thermolabile T variant of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T polymorphism (rs1801133) is associated with a limited (oxidative) stress defense. Therefore, C677T MTHFR could be a potential predictor for depressive symptomatology and MDD recurrence in the context of traumatic stress during early life. We investigated the interaction between the C677T MTHFR variant and exposure to traumatic childhood events (TCEs) on MDD recurrence during a 5.5-year follow-up in a discovery sample of 124 patients with recurrent MDD and, in an independent replication sample, on depressive symptomatology in 665 healthy individuals from the general population. In the discovery sample, Cox regression analysis revealed a significant interaction between MTHFR genotype and TCEs on MDD recurrence (P=0.017). Over the 5.5-year follow-up period, median time to recurrence was 191 days for T-allele carrying patients who experienced TCEs (T+ and TCE+); 461 days for T- and TCE+ patients; 773 days for T+ and TCE- patients and 866 days for T- and TCE- patients. In the replication sample, a significant interaction was present between the MTHFR genotype and TCEs on depressive symptomatology (P=0.002). Our results show that the effects of TCEs on the prospectively assessed recurrence of MDD and self-reported depressive symptoms in the general population depend on the MTHFR genotype. In conclusion, T-allele carriers may be at an increased risk for depressive symptoms or MDD recurrence after exposure to childhood trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e288
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2013


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Child
  • Depression/etiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major/etiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease/genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2)/genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide/genetics
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological/complications
  • Young Adult

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