Neuro-transcriptomic signatures for mood disorder morbidity and suicide mortality

Mbemba Jabbi, Dhivya Arasappan, Simon B. Eickhoff, Stephen M. Strakowski, Charles B. Nemeroff, Hans A. Hofmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Suicidal behaviors are strongly linked with mood disorders, but the specific neurobiological and functional gene-expression correlates for this linkage remain elusive. We performed neuroimaging-guided RNA-sequencing in two studies to test the hypothesis that imaging-localized gray matter volume (GMV) loss in mood disorders, harbors gene-expression changes associated with disease morbidity and related suicide mortality in an independent postmortem cohort. To do so, first, we conducted study 1 using an anatomical likelihood estimation (ALE) MRI meta-analysis including a total of 47 voxel-based morphometry (VBM) publications (i.e. 26 control versus (vs) major depressive disorder (MDD) studies, and 21 control vs bipolar disorder (BD) studies) in 2387 (living) participants. Study 1 meta-analysis identified a selective anterior insula cortex (AIC) GMV loss in mood disorders. We then used this results to guide study 2 postmortem tissue dissection and RNA-Sequencing of 100 independent donor brain samples with a life-time history of MDD (N = 30), BD (N = 37) and control (N = 33). In study 2, exploratory factor-analysis identified a higher-order factor representing number of Axis-1 diagnoses (e.g. substance use disorders/psychosis/anxiety, etc.), referred to here as morbidity and suicide-completion referred to as mortality. Comparisons of case-vs-control, and factor-analysis defined higher-order-factor contrast variables revealed that the imaging-identified AIC GMV loss sub-region harbors differential gene-expression changes in high morbidity-&-mortality versus low morbidity-&-mortality cohorts in immune, inflammasome, and neurodevelopmental pathways. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis further identified co-activated gene modules for psychiatric morbidity and mortality outcomes. These results provide evidence that AIC anatomical signature for mood disorders are possible correlates for gene-expression abnormalities in mood morbidity and suicide mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-74
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior insula
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Gene expression
  • Major depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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