Genetic variation in FKBP5 associated with the extent of stress hormone dysregulation in major depression


Corresponding author: A. Menke, M.D., Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Kraepelinstr. 10, D-80804 Munich, Germany. E-mail:


The FK506 binding protein 51 or FKBP5 has been implicated in the regulation of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) sensitivity, and genetic variants in this gene have been associated with mood and anxiety disorders. GR resistance and associated stress hormone dysregulation are among the most robust biological findings in major depression, the extent of which may be moderated by FKBP5 polymorphisms. FKBP5 mRNA expression in peripheral blood cells (baseline and following in vivo GR stimulation with 1.5 mg dexamethasone p.o.) was analyzed together with plasma cortisol, ACTH, dexamethasone levels and the FKBP5 polymorphism rs1360780 in 68 depressed patients and 87 healthy controls. We observed a significant (P = 0.02) interaction between disease status and FKBP5 risk allele carrier status (minor allele T) on GR-stimulated FKBP5 mRNA expression. Patients carrying the risk T allele, but not the CC genotype, showed a reduced induction of FKBP5 mRNA. This FKBP5 polymorphism by disease status interaction was paralleled by the extent of plasma cortisol and ACTH suppression following dexamethasone administration, with a reduced suppression only observed in depressed patients carrying the T allele. Only depressed patients carrying the FKBP5 rs1360780 risk allele showed significant GR resistance compared with healthy controls, as measured by dexamethasone-induced FKBP5 mRNA induction in peripheral blood cells and suppression of plasma cortisol and ACTH concentrations. This finding suggests that endocrine alterations in depressed patients are determined by genetic variants and may allow identification of specific subgroups.