A metabolome-wide association study in the general population reveals decreased levels of serum laurylcarnitine in people with depression

Helena U. Zacharias, Johannes Hertel, Hamimatunnisa Johar, Maik Pietzner, Karoline Lukaschek, Seryan Atasoy, Sonja Kunze, Henry Völzke, Matthias Nauck, Nele Friedrich, Gabi Kastenmüller, Hans J. Grabe, Christian Gieger, Jan Krumsiek, Karl-Heinz Ladwig

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Depression constitutes a leading cause of disability worldwide. Despite extensive research on its interaction with psychobiological factors, associated pathways are far from being elucidated. Metabolomics, assessing the final products of complex biochemical reactions, has emerged as a valuable tool for exploring molecular pathways. We conducted a metabolome-wide association analysis to investigate the link between the serum metabolome and depressed mood (DM) in 1411 participants of the KORA (Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region) F4 study (discovery cohort). Serum metabolomics data comprised 353 unique metabolites measured by Metabolon. We identified 72 (5.1%) KORA participants with DM. Linear regression tests were conducted modeling each metabolite value by DM status, adjusted for age, sex, body-mass index, antihypertensive, cardiovascular, antidiabetic, and thyroid gland hormone drugs, corticoids and antidepressants. Sensitivity analyses were performed in subcohorts stratified for sex, suicidal ideation, and use of antidepressants. We replicated our results in an independent sample of 968 participants of the SHIP-Trend (Study of Health in Pomerania) study including 52 (5.4%) individuals with DM (replication cohort). We found significantly lower laurylcarnitine levels in KORA F4 participants with DM after multiple testing correction according to Benjamini/Hochberg. This finding was replicated in the independent SHIP-Trend study. Laurylcarnitine remained significantly associated (p value < 0.05) with depression in samples stratified for sex, suicidal ideation, and antidepressant medication. Decreased blood laurylcarnitine levels in depressed individuals may point to impaired fatty acid oxidation and/or mitochondrial function in depressive disorders, possibly representing a novel therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7372-7383
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

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