Effect of OPRM1 and stressful life events on symptoms of major depression in African American adolescents

Gregory Swann, Gayle R. Byck, Danielle M. Dick, Fazil Aliev, Shawn J. Latendresse, Brien Riley, Darlene Kertes, Cuie Sun, Jessica E. Salvatore, John Bolland, Brian Mustanski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background In a community sample of low-income African American adolescents, we tested the interactive effects of variation in the mu 1 opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene and the occurrence of stressful life events on symptoms of depression. Method Interactive effects of 24 OPRM1 simple nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and adolescent report of stressful life events on depression were tested using multilevel regressions. SNPs were dummy coded to test both additive and dominate forms of coding. Results Five OPRM1 SNPs showed significant evidence of interaction with stressful life events to alter depression risk (or symptoms) after adjusting for multiple testing and the correlated nature of the SNPs. Follow-up analyses showed significant differences based on OPRM1 genotype at both lower and higher frequencies of stressful life events, suggesting that participants with a copy of the minor allele on OPRM1 SNPs rs524731, rs9478503, rs3778157, rs10485057, and rs511420 have fewer symptoms in low stress conditions but more symptoms in high stress conditions compared to major allele homozygotes. Limitations The genetic variants associated with depression in African American adolescents may not translate to other ethnic groups. This study is also limited in that only one gene that functions within a complex biological system is addressed. Conclusions This current study is the first to find an interaction between OPRM1 and life stress that is associated with depression. It also addressed an understudied population within the behavioral genetics literature. Further research should test additional genes involved in the opioid system and expand the current findings to more diverse samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-19
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jun 20 2014


  • Adolescence
  • Depression
  • Gene×environment interactions
  • Keywords
  • Molecular genetics
  • Psychopathology
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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