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Circadian rhythms disruptions, including abnormalities of circadian phase position and melatonin secretion, have been described in major depression (MD). Arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) is a key enzyme of the melatonin pathway involved in circadian oscillations of melatonin levels. We assessed the contribution of AANAT gene variability to susceptibility to MD considering common and rare genetic variations through a sequential sequencing and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based genotyping approach in a sample of 445 unrelated patients with MD (257 unipolar MD, 188 bipolar depression) and 440 community-based screened control subjects. We identified 17 sequence changes, thirteen of which represented novel sequence variations. We did not observe an over-representation of patients carrying rare variants compared with the healthy controls. Common variants (MAF > 2%) were included in a case–control association analysis that showed significant association after multiple testing correction of two SNPs located in the promoter region of AANAT with MD: rs3760138 (P = 0.00006) and rs4238989 (P = 0.005). Multimarker analysis found significant associations between two three-marker protective haplotypes and a susceptibility three-marker haplotype containing the rare alleles of rs3760138-rs4238989-rs8150 and MD. We present evidence of the association of genetic variability in the AANAT gene with susceptibility to MD. Our results support the hypothesis that the melatonin-signaling pathway and circadian clock mechanisms may contribute to the pathophysiology of MD.