ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (10): 1102-1115.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.01102

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The influence of dopaminergic genetic variants and maternal parenting on adolescent depressive symptoms: A multilocus genetic study

CAO Yanmiao,ZHANG Wenxin()   

  1. School of Psychology, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250014, China
  • Received:2019-01-31 Published:2019-10-25 Online:2019-08-19
  • Contact: Wenxin ZHANG
  • Supported by:


For decades, there is increasing evidence for the importance of single-gene by environment interactions (G × E) in understanding the etiology of depression. However, several concerns have been raised about the ignoring the polygenic traits of depression when conducting G × E research using single loci. Within this context, the multilocus genetic profile score (MGPS) have recently emerged as an approach of capturing polygenic nature across multiple genes. In line with the monoamine deficiency hypothesis, recent research has begun to show that the combined effects of multiple dopaminergic genetic variants are stronger than the influence of any single gene examined in isolation. Additionally, genes related to the functioning of the dopaminergic system, which coordinates individual’s response to stress. However, existing G × E research has largely focused on adverse family environments (i.e., maltreatment, maternal unresponsiveness) and to a lesser extent on positive environment, such as positive parenting. Therefore, the present study aimed to examine the interaction between dopaminergic genetic variants and maternal parenting on adolescent depressive symptoms, by adopting the approach of multilocus genetic profile score.

Participants were 1052 mother-offspring (adolescents mean age 12.31 ± 0.37 years old at the first time point, 50.2% females) dyads recruited from the community. Youth completed assessments twice with an interval of one year. Saliva samples, self-reported depressive symptoms and mother-reported parenting were collected. All measures showed good reliability. Genotyping in three dopaminergic genes were performed for each participant in real time with MassARRAY RT software version and analyzed using the MassARRAY Typer software version 3.4 (Sequenom). To examine whether multilocus genetic profile score moderates the effects of parenting on adolescent depressive symptoms and whether this potential moderating effect act in a diathesis-stress or differential susceptibility manner, hierarchical regression analyses were conducted. We also tested above questions by recoding into categorical variables and re-conducted analyses.

The results found that multilocus genetic profile score was a significant risk factor of depression, with higher dopamine genetic risk scores (indicating lower dopaminergic neurotransmission) predicting higher levels of depression. After controlling for gender and prior depressive symptoms, the G × E effect with positive and negative parenting were also significant, suggesting that G × E interaction significantly predicted change in depression level between Time 1 and Time 2. Specifically, adolescents with higher MGPS exhibited higher risk for depression when encountered with lower levels of positive parenting and higher levels of negative parenting, compared to their counterparts with lower MGPS. The results support the diathesis-stress model and highlight the complex ways that genes and environment interact to influence development.

These finding underscores complex polygenic underpinnings of depression and lends support for the mulitlocus genetic profile scores-environment interactions implicated in the etiology of depressive symptoms.

Key words: adolescent depression, maternal parenting, dopamine, multilocus genetic profile score, gene- environment interaction

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