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Abstract: Depression, type 2 diabetes (T2D), and metabolic syndrome (MetS) are often comorbid. Depression per se increases the risk for T2D by 60%. This risk is not accounted for by the use of antidepressant therapy. Stress causes hyperactivation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, by triggering the hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) secretion, which stimulates the anterior pituitary to release the adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), which causes the adrenal secretion of cortisol. Depression is associated with an increased level of cortisol, and CRH and ACTH at inappropriately “normal” levels, that is too high compared to their expected lower levels due to cortisol negative feedback. T2D and MetS are also associated with hypercortisolism. High levels of cortisol can impair mood as well as cause hyperglycemia and insulin resistance and other traits typical of T2D and MetS. We hypothesize that HPA axis hyperactivation may be due to variants in the genes of the CRH receptors (CRHR1, CRHR2), corticotropin receptors (or melanocortin receptors, MC1R-MC5R), glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1), mineralocorticoid receptor (NR3C2), and of the FK506 binding protein 51 (FKBP5), and that these variants may be partially responsible for the clinical association of depression, T2D and MetS. In this review, we will focus on the correlation of stress, HPA axis hyperactivation, and the possible genetic role of the CRHR1, CRHR2, MCR1–5, NR3C1, and NR3C2 receptors and FKBP5 in the susceptibility to the comorbidity of depression, T2D, and MetS. New studies are needed to confirm the hypothesized role of these genes in the clinical association of depression, T2D, and MetS.
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