Genetic factors and treatment of mood disorders


Corresponding author: Martin Alda, MD, FRCP(C), Dalhousie University, Abbie J. Lane Building, 5909 Jubilee Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 2E2, Canada. Fax: (902) 473 4596; e-mail:


Objectives: This paper reviews the pharmacogenetics of mood disorders.

Methods: We have searched the literature for published studies and abstracts relevant for genetic effects in acute antidepressant treatment and in long-term prophylactic treatment.

Results: The most promising findings to date show an association of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene and the response to serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Genetic factors also appear to play a significant role in the outcome of long-term lithium treatment. The phenotype of lithium-responsive bipolar disorder is associated with stronger genetic effects as well as with an increased phenotypic homogeneity.

Conclusions: Genetic factors likely influence treatment response in mood disorders. Clarifying their precise role will have implications for treatment as well as for understanding the pathophysiological mechanisms of these disorders.