Mood disorder susceptibility gene CACNA1C modifies mood-related behaviors in mice and interacts with sex to influence behavior in mice and diagnosis in humans

David T. Dao, Pamela Belmonte Mahon, Xiang Cai, Colleen E. Kovacsics, Robert A. Blackwell, Michal Arad, Jianxin Shi, Peter P. Zandi, Patricio O'Donnell, James A. Knowles, Myrna M. Weissman, William Coryell, William A. Scheftner, William B. Lawson, Douglas F. Levinson, Scott M. Thompson, James B. Potash, Todd D. Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Background Recent genome-wide association studies have associated polymorphisms in the gene CACNA1C, which codes for Cav1.2, with a bipolar disorder and depression diagnosis. Methods The behaviors of wild-type and Cacna1c heterozygous mice of both sexes were evaluated in a number of tests. Based upon sex differences in our mouse data, we assessed a gene × sex interaction for diagnosis of mood disorders in human subjects. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health Genetics Initiative Bipolar Disorder Consortium and the Genetics of Recurrent Early-Onset Major Depression Consortium were examined using a combined dataset that included 2021 mood disorder cases (1223 female cases) and 1840 control subjects (837 female subjects). Results In both male and female mice, Cacna1c haploinsufficiency was associated with lower exploratory behavior, decreased response to amphetamine, and antidepressant-like behavior in the forced swim and tail suspension tests. Female, but not male, heterozygous mice displayed decreased risk-taking behavior or increased anxiety in multiple tests, greater attenuation of amphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion, decreased development of learned helplessness, and a decreased acoustic startle response, indicating a sex-specific role of Cacna1c. In humans, sex-specific genetic association was seen for two intronic single nucleotide polymorphisms, rs2370419 and rs2470411, in CACNA1C, with effects in female subjects (odds ratio = 1.64, 1.32) but not in male subjects (odds ratio = .82, .86). The interactions by sex were significant after correction for testing 190 single nucleotide polymorphisms (p = 1.4 × 10-4, 2.1 × 10 -4; pcorrected = .03, .04) and were consistent across two large datasets. Conclusions Our preclinical results support a role for CACNA1C in mood disorder pathophysiology, and the combination of human genetic and preclinical data support an interaction between sex and genotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-810
Number of pages10
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010


  • Animal model
  • Ca1.2
  • bipolar disorder
  • gender
  • major depression
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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