Aromatase (CYP19A1) gene variants, sex steroid levels, and late-life depression

Marie Laure Ancelin, Joanna Norton, Marianne Canonico, Pierre Yves Scarabin, Karen Ritchie, Joanne Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Sex differences in psychiatric disorders are common and could involve sex steroids. Aromatase, the product of the CYP19A1 gene, is the key enzyme in the conversion of androgen to estrogen. Whether CYP19A1 variants could be associated with depression differently in men and women has not been examined. Methods: This population-based study included 405 men and 602 women aged ≥65 years. A clinical level of depression (DEP) was defined as having a score ≥16 on the Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression scale or a diagnosis of current major depression based on the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview and according to DSM-IV criteria. Seven single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning the CYP19A1 gene were genotyped and circulating levels of estradiol and testosterone were determined. Multivariable analyses were adjusted for age, body mass index, ischemic pathologies, cognitive impairment, and anxiety. Results: Five SNPs were associated with DEP in women specifically and this varied according to a history of major depression (p-values.01 to.0005). Three SNPs were associated with an increased risk of late-life DEP in women without a history of major depression, while two SNPs were associated with a decreased DEP risk in women with a history of major depression and were also associated with higher estradiol levels. Conclusions: Variants of the CYP19A1 gene appear to be susceptibility factors for late-life depression in a sex-specific manner. The polymorphisms decreasing the risk of recurrent depression in postmenopausal women also influence estradiol levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-155
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • aromatase
  • elderly
  • estradiol
  • late-life depression
  • population-based study
  • sex difference

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