Interactive effects of genetic polymorphisms and childhood adversity on brain morphologic changes in depression

Yong Ku Kim, Byung Joo Ham, Kyu Man Han

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The etiology of depression is characterized by the interplay of genetic and environmental factors and brain structural alteration. Childhood adversity is a major contributing factor in the development of depression. Interactions between childhood adversity and candidate genes for depression could affect brain morphology via the modulation of neurotrophic factors, serotonergic neurotransmission, or the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and this pathway may explain the subsequent onset of depression. Childhood adversity is associated with structural changes in the hippocampus, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and prefrontal cortex (PFC), as well as white matter tracts such as the corpus callosum, cingulum, and uncinate fasciculus. Childhood adversity showed an interaction with the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene Val66Met polymorphism, serotonin transporter-linked promoter region (5-HTTLPR), and FK506 binding protein 51 (FKBP5) gene rs1360780 in brain morphologic changes in patients with depression and in a non-clinical population. Individuals with the Met allele of BDNF Val66Met and a history of childhood adversity had reduced volume in the hippocampus and its subfields, amygdala, and PFC and thinner rostral ACC in a study of depressed patients and healthy controls. The S allele of 5-HTTLPR combined with exposure to childhood adversity or a poorer parenting environment was associated with a smaller hippocampal volume and subsequent onset of depression. The FKBP5 gene rs160780 had a significant interaction with childhood adversity in the white matter integrity of brain regions involved in emotion processing. This review identified that imaging genetic studies on childhood adversity may deepen our understanding on the neurobiological background of depression by scrutinizing complicated pathways of genetic factors, early psychosocial environments, and the accompanying morphologic changes in emotion-processing neural circuitry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages10
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Apr 20

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • 5-HTTLPR
  • BDNF Val66Met
  • Childhood adversity
  • Depression
  • FKBP5
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Imaging genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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