Age-associated decrease in global DNA methylation in patients with major depression

Ping Tao Tseng, Pao Yen Lin*, Yu Lee, Chi Fa Hung, For Wey Lung, Cheng Sheng Chen, Mian Yoon Chong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: Evidence has supported a role of DNA methylation in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. The purpose of the current study is to examine 5-methylcytosine (5-mc) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmc) levels in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) at different disease states.

Methods: Forty-nine patients with MDD and 25 healthy control subjects were included. The severity in the disease was assessed by using the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression (HAM-D) (HAM-D ≥19 for severe MDD and HAM-D ≤7 for remitted MDD). The 5-mc and 5-hmc levels in leukocyte DNA were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay-based method.

Results: We found a significant decrease in 5-hmc and trends of decreasing 5-mc levels in patients with severe MDD compared to healthy controls (P=0.059 for 5-mc and P=0.013 for 5-hmc). The decrease in the level exists only in the older age group (P=0.035 for 5-mc and P=0.002 for 5-hmc) but not in the younger age group (P=0.077 for 5-mc and P=0.620 for 5-hmc). In addition, the 5-mc level was found to be inversely correlated with disease severity (P=0.011).

Conclusion: Our results support a decrease in global DNA methylation associated with age in patients with severe depression. Further studies are needed to clarify the role of the methylation level as a disease marker of depression and whether antidepressant treatment changes the methylation profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2105-2114
Number of pages10
JournalNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
StatePublished - 10 11 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Tseng et al.


  • 5-hydroxymethylcytosine
  • 5-methylcytosine
  • Antidepressant
  • Epigenetic
  • Gene modification
  • Mood disorder


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