Brain galanin system genes interact with life stresses in depression-related phenotypes

Gabriella Juhasz, Gabor Hullam, Nora Eszlari, Xenia Gonda, Peter Antal, Ian Muir Anderson, Tomas G.M. Hökfelt, J. F.William Deakin, Gyorgy Bagdy

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54 Citations (Scopus)


Galanin is a stress-inducible neuropeptide and cotransmitter in serotonin and norepinephrine neurons with a possible role in stress-related disorders. Here we report that variants in genes for galanin (GAL) and its receptors (GALR1, GALR2, GALR3), despite their disparate genomic loci, conferred increased risk of depression and anxiety in people who experienced childhood adversity or recent negative life events in a European white population cohort totaling 2,361 from Manchester, United Kingdom and Budapest, Hungary. Bayesian multivariate analysis revealed a greater relevance of galanin system genes in highly stressed subjects compared with subjects with moderate or low life stress. Using the same method, the effect of the galanin system genes was stronger than the effect of the well-studied 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4). Conventional multivariate analysis using general linear models demonstrated that interaction of galanin system genes with life stressors explained more variance (1.7%, P = 0.005) than the life stress-only model. This effect replicated in independent analysis of the Manchester and Budapest subpopulations, and in males and females. The results suggest that the galanin pathway plays an important role in the pathogenesis of depression in humans by increasing the vulnerability to early and recent psychosocial stress. Correcting abnormal galanin function in depression could prove to be a novel target for drug development. The findings further emphasize the importance of modeling environmental interaction in finding new genes for depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1666-E1673
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Apr 22 2014


  • Galanin receptors
  • Mood disorders
  • Network-based analysis
  • Neurogenesis
  • Transmitter coexistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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