Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Pharmaco-Omics: Mechanisms and Prediction

Thanh Thanh L. Nguyen, Duan Liu, Ming Fen Ho, Arjun P. Athreya, Richard Weinshilboum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a standard of care for the pharmacotherapy of patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). However, only one-half to two-thirds of MDD patients respond to SSRI therapy. Recently, a “multiple omics” research strategy was applied to identify genetic differences between patients who did and did not respond to SSRI therapy. As a first step, plasma metabolites were assayed using samples from the 803 patients in the PGRN-AMPS SSRI MDD trial. The metabolomics data were then used to “inform” genomics by performing a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for plasma concentrations of the metabolite most highly associated with clinical response, serotonin (5-HT). Two genome-wide or near genome-wide significant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) signals were identified, one that mapped near the TSPAN5 gene and another across the ERICH3 gene, both genes that are highly expressed in the brain. Knocking down TSPAN5 and ERICH3 resulted in decreased 5-HT concentrations in neuroblastoma cell culture media and decreased expression of enzymes involved in 5-HT biosynthesis and metabolism. Functional genomic studies demonstrated that ERICH3 was involved in clathrin-mediated vesicle formation and TSPAN5 was an ethanol-responsive gene that may be a marker for response to acamprosate pharmacotherapy of alcohol use disorder (AUD), a neuropsychiatric disorder highly co-morbid with MDD. In parallel studies, kynurenine was the plasma metabolite most highly associated with MDD symptom severity and application of a metabolomics-informed pharmacogenomics approach identified DEFB1 and AHR as genes associated with variation in plasma kynurenine levels. Both genes also contributed to kynurenine-related inflammatory pathways. Finally, a multiply replicated predictive algorithm for SSRI clinical response with a balanced predictive accuracy of 76% (compared with 56% for clinical data alone) was developed by including the SNPs in TSPAN5, ERICH3, DEFB1 and AHR. In summary, application of a multiple omics research strategy that used metabolomics to inform genomics, followed by functional genomic studies, identified novel genes that influenced monoamine biology and made it possible to develop a predictive algorithm for SSRI clinical outcomes in MDD. A similar pharmaco-omic research strategy might be broadly applicable for the study of other neuropsychiatric diseases and their drug therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number614048
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
StatePublished - Jan 11 2021


  • kynurenine
  • machine learning
  • major depressive disorder
  • pharmaco-omics
  • pharmacogenomics
  • predictive algorithm
  • selective serotonergic reuptake inhibitors
  • serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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