BACKGROUND: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is often co-morbid with major depression and may complicate its treatment. We were interested in differences in genetic and developmental risk factors between depressed patients with or without a co-morbid BPD.
METHOD: Out-patients with major depressive disorder were recruited for two treatment trials. Assessment of depressed patients included the assessment of personality disorders, developmental risk factors and DNA samples for genetic analyses.
RESULTS: In each study there was a significant association between the 9-repeat allele of the dopamine transporter (DAT1) and BPD, with odds ratios (OR) > 3 and p < or = 0.02. This association remained significant when developmental risk factors for BPD (childhood abuse and neglect and borderline temperament) were also included in the analyses. The OR was even larger in the depressed patients aged > or = 35 years (OR 9.31, p = 0.005).
CONCLUSION: This replicated association in depressed patients between the 9-repeat allele of DAT1 and BPD may provide clues to understanding the neurobiology of BPD. The finding that the association is larger in the older depressed patients, suggests that the 9-repeat allele may be associated with a poorer prognosis BPD, rather than a young adult limited variant of BPD.