Gustavo Turecki MD, PhD
6875 Boulevard LaSalle
Canada Research Chair in Major Depressive Disorder and Suicide - Tier 1
Scientific Director, Douglas Research Centre
Director, McGill Group for Suicide Studies, Douglas Research Centre
Co-Director, Douglas – Bell Canada Brain Bank (suicide studies), Douglas Research Centre
Head, Depressive Disorders Program, Douglas Mental Health University Institute
Chief of Psychiatry, CIUSSS Montreal West Island
Chair, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Associate Member, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University
Associate Member, Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University
McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS)
Attempted and completed suicides are major problems in our society, making the understanding, prevention, and treatment of suicidal behaviours a top priority. Individuals who suffer from major depression are especially at risk. Gustavo Turecki, MD, PhD, conducts studies to better understand the characteristics of these individuals, focusing on issues such as early development, personality traits and neurobiological factors, with particular attention to how the environment interacts with the genome to increase risk. His studies address questions such as, "Why do some people who become depressed commit suicide while others with the same illness do not?" At a molecular level, he investigates the role of epigenetic risk factors, namely how life experience affects gene function and increases risk for suicidal behaviour. In June 2014, he and his team published a study showing that the levels of a tiny molecule, miR-1202 may provide a marker for depression and help detect individuals who are likely to respond to antidepressant treatment. Gustavo Turecki is the director of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS), a center comprising eleven independent investigators and carrying out multidisciplinary studies on suicide, including the study of biological, behavioral, clinical and psychosocial risk factors for suicide. The MGSS works with the Douglas – Bell Canada Brain Bank to provide tissue for postmortem studies on suicide and mental illnesses. Gustavo Turecki is also the Head of the Depressive Disorders Program that offers superspecialized services to children and adults who are suffering from major depression and/or severe forms of other depressive disorders. It provides cutting-edge therapies to depressed patients and develops knowledge on major depression risk factors and treatment by integrating research projects into clinical practice.
Molecular mechanisms of response to antidepressant treatment
- Lopez JP, Lim R, Cruceanu C, Crapper L, Fasano C, Labonte B, Maussion G, Yang JP, Yerko V, Vigneault E, El Mestikawy S, Mechawar N, Pavlidis P, Turecki G. miR-1202 is a primate-specific and brain-enriched microRNA involved in major depression and antidepressant treatment. Nature Medicine 2014;20(7):764-8. Note: We identified a miRNA that is differentially expressed in subjects who respond to treatment for major depression and identified a new molecular target for antidepressant treatment.
- Lopez JP, Fiori LM, Cruceanu C, Lin R, Labonte B, Cates HM, Heller EA, Vialou V, Ku SM, Gerald C, Han MH, Foster J, Frey BN, Soares CN, Muller DJ, Farzan F, Leri F, MacQueen GM, Feilotter H, Tyryshkin K, Evans KR, Giacobbe P, Blier P, Lam RW, Milev R, Parikh SV, Rotzinger S, Strother SC, Lewis CM, Aitchison KJ, Wittenberg GM, Mechawar N, Nestler EJ, Uher R, Kennedy SH, Turecki G. MicroRNAs 146a/b-5 and 425-3p and 24-3p are markers of antidepressant response and regulate MAPK/Wnt-system genes. Nature Communications 2017;8:15497. Note: This article identified four miRNA that were consistent mediators of antidepressant response over different lines of evidence. We identified new molecular targets for antidepressant treatment.
- Belzeaux R, Gorgievski V, Fiori L, Lopez JP, Grenier J, Lin R, Nagy C, Ibrahim EC, Gascon E, Courtet P, Richard-Devantoy S, Berlim M, Chachamovich E, Théroux JF, Dumas S, Giros B, Rotzinger S, Soares C, Foster J, Mechawar N, Tall G, Tzavara E, Kennedy SH, Turecki G. GPR56/ADGRG1 is associated with response to antidepressant treatment. Nature Communications 2020;11(11):1635. Note: This investigation revealed a novel role for G protein-coupled receptor 56 (GPR56) in mediating the response to antidepressant treatment.
Early-life adversity associates with epigenetic changes in brain tissue
- McGowan PO, Sasaki A, D'Alessio AC, Dymov S, Labonte B, Szyf M*, Turecki G*, Meaney MJ*. Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse. Nature Neuroscience 2009;12(3):342-8. *shared senior authorship and corresponding authors. Note: This work was the first to show biological mechanisms for the lasting impact of social trauma and received widespread media attention, as well as 2,700 citations.
- Labonte B, Suderman M, Maussion G, Navaro L, Yerko V, Mahar I, Bureau A, Mechawar N, Szyf M, Meaney MJ, Turecki G. Genome-wide epigenetic regulation by early-life trauma. Archives General Psychiatry 2012;69(7):722-31. Note: This was the first genome-wide study investigating epigenetic regulation of the brain by the early-life environment in humans.
- Lutz PE, Tanti A, Gasecka A, Barnett-Burns S, Kim JJ, Zhou Y, Chen GG, Wakid M, Shaw M, Almeida D, Chay MA, Yang J, Lariviere V, M'Boutchou MN, van Kempen LC, Yerko V, Prud'homme J, Davoli MA, Vaillancourt K, Theroux JF, Bramoulle A, Zhang TY, Meaney MJ, Ernst C, Cote D, Mechawar N, Turecki G. Association of a history of child abuse with impaired myelination in the anterior cingulate cortex: convergent epigenetic, transcriptional, and morphological evidence. The American Journal of Psychiatry 2017;174(12):1185-1194. Note: This investigation identified changes in DNA methylation in myelin-related genes that associated with child abuse, specifically in oligodendrocytes.
- Lutz PE, Chay MA, Pacis A, Chen GC, Aouabed Z, Maffioletti E, Théroux JF, Grenier JC, Yang J, Auirre M, Ernst C, Redensek A, van Kempen LC, Yalcin I, Kwan T, Mechawar N, Pastinen T, Turecki G. Non-CG methylation and multiple histone profiles associate child abuse with immune and small GTPase dysregulation. Nature Communications 2021;12(1):1132. Note: This study combined multiple layers of epigenomic data to understand molecular adaptations in the amygdala, a brain region that plays a critical role in the regulation of emotions, in individuals who were severely abused during childhood.
Relationship between behavioural traits and depression and suicide phenotypes
- Dumais A, Lesage AD, Alda M, Rouleau G, Dumont M, Chawky N, Roy M, Mann JJ, Benkelfat C, Turecki G. Risk factors for suicide completion in major depression: a case-control study of impulsive and aggressive behaviors in men The American Journal of Psychiatry 2005;162(11):2116-24. Note: This innovative study furthered our understanding of clinical and behavioral risk factors of suicide. The new methods and original design used here are now regarded as standards in the field.
- McGirr A, Alda M, Seguin M, Cabot S, Lesage A, Turecki G. Familial aggregation of suicide explained by cluster B traits: a three-group family study of suicide controlling for major depressive disorder. The American Journal of Psychiatry 2009;166(10):1124-34. Note: These studies used new methods and original study designs that are now regarded as standards in the field to better define depression and suicide phenotypes. In particular, we study how impulsive-aggressive behaviours contribute to suicide risk, and have published in several high-impact journals.
- Turecki G. The molecular bases of the suicidal brain. Nat Rev Neurosci 2014;15(12):802-16.
- Turecki G & Brent, DA. Suicide and suicidal behaviour. Lancet. 2016 19;387(10024):1227-39.
- Turecki G, Brent DA, Gunnell D, O'Connor RC, Oquendo MA, Pirkis J, Stanley BH. Suicide and suicide risk. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019;5(1):74.
Gustavo Turecki is a clinician-scientist who has been involved in the investigation of the neurobiology of depression and suicide, with a particular interest on functional genomics and epigenetics. Dr Turecki’s laboratory has made important contributions to our understanding of biological processes underlying psychopathology, including the first description of molecular mechanisms explaining the impact of childhood traumatic experiences on brain function. Dr. Turecki’s work uses epidemiological, clinical, psychosocial and basic research approaches, and has significantly advanced knowledge on mechanisms leading to suicide and suicidal behaviour. In addition, his laboratory has also made important contributions to the investigation of mechanisms of antidepressant response.
In addition to his scientific work, Dr. Turecki fulfills important local, national and international leadership roles in research, intervention and knowledge transfer in the field of suicide and depression. He is Full Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University and the Director of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS), a world-leading multidisciplinary suicide research group (www.mgss.ca) with researchers in anthropology, psychology, epidemiology, anatomy and molecular biology. The MGSS also includes as a unique international resource, the Quebec Suicide Brain Bank (now a part of the Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank; www.douglasbrainbank.ca), which sends over 2,000 brain samples to the best laboratories in the world every year. Dr. Turecki is also the Scientific Director of the Douglas Research Centre. Finally, as a clinician, Dr. Turecki is the Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the Douglas Mental Health University Intitute and associated hospitals (Montreal West Island CIUSSS) and heads the Depressive Disorders Program at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, where he treats patients with refractory major depressive disorder.
Dr. Turecki is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and a Fellow of several scientific organizations, such as the International Academy of Suicide Research. He also serves, or has served, in the advisory boards of several scientific journals, and international scientific institutes, such as the Max Planck Institute, and was the inaugural Chair of the CIHR Advisory Board on Research Excellence, Policy and Ethics.
1980 Rotary Foundation Award for Highest Standing
1981 Rotary Foundation Award for Highest Standing
1996 Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum, Rafaelsen Fellowship
2001 Michael Kaplan Investigator, NARSAD
2003 Young Investigator Award, Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology
2005 CIHR, Day on the Hill delegation
2005 William Dawson Chair, McGill University
2006 Distinguished Investigator Award, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
2007 André Dupont Award, Quebec Clinical Research Association
2007 Pfizer-DHRF Heinz Lehmann Award
2008 Exemplary Psychiatrist Award, AMI-Quebec
2008 NARSAD, Independent Investigator Award
2008 Research Award, Canadian Foundation for Suicide Prevention
2009 Distinguished Investigator Award, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
2009 Douglas Utting Award for significant contribution toward depression and suicide
2009 NARSAD Oxley Foundation Investigator Award
2009 Scientist of the year Award, Radio Canada/CBC
2009 Top 10 findings of the year, Quebec Science
2010 Brickell Visiting Professor Award, Columbia University
2010 Personnalité de la semaine, La Presse
2011 Feinberg lecture, Tel Aviv University
2012 Heinz Lehmann Award, CCNP
2012 Research Career Award, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
2014 Samarthji Lal Award, Graham Boeck Foundation & CIHR-INMHA
2014 Top 10 findings of the year, Quebec Science
2015 Joel Elkes Research Award, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
2016 Prix Léo-Pariseau, ACFAS
2016 Canada Research Chair in Major Depressive Disorder and Suicide
2016 Distinguished Investigator, NARSAD - Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
2019 Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation Oration, Australia
2019 Margolese National Brain Disorders Prize
2020 CINP Sumitomo/Sunovion Brain Health Clinical Research Award
2020 Colvin Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Bipolar Mood Disorders Research - Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
2020 Martha Claire Loncarevic Lectureship, University of Toronto
2020 2020 Highly Cited Researchers (top 1% in research field), Clarivate Web of Science
Widespread Decrease of Cerebral Vimentin-Immunoreactive Astrocytes in Depressed Suicides. Front Psychiatry. 2021;12:640963.
Non-CG methylation and multiple histone profiles associate child abuse with immune and small GTPase dysregulation. Nat Commun. 2021;12(1):1132.
Genome-wide analysis suggests the importance of vascular processes and neuroinflammation in late-life antidepressant response. Transl Psychiatry. 2021;11(1):127.
Down-regulation of habenular calcium-dependent secretion activator 2 induces despair-like behavior. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):3700.
Increased functional coupling of the mu opioid receptor in the anterior insula of depressed individuals. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2021.
Ketamine and Esketamine augmentation for suicidal ideation: A randomized, double-blinded clinical trial. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2021;68:97-99.
Balance Problems, Paralysis, and Angina as Clinical Markers for Severity in Major Depression. Front Psychiatry. 2020;11:567394.
Association of Social Support During Adolescence With Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidal Ideation in Young Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(12):e2027491.
Deep feature extraction of single-cell transcriptomes by generative adversarial network. Bioinformatics. 2020.
miR-323a regulates ERBB4 and is involved in depression. Mol Psychiatry. 2020.
Characterization of Vimentin-Immunoreactive Astrocytes in the Human Brain. Front Neuroanat. 2020;14:31.
The Role of Epigenetic Dysregulation in Suicidal Behaviors. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2020.
Cannabis use, depression and suicidal ideation in adolescence: direction of associations in a population based cohort. J Affect Disord. 2020;274:1076-1083.
Depression and Social Defeat Stress Are Associated with Inhibitory Synaptic Changes in the Nucleus Accumbens. J Neurosci. 2020;40(32):6228-6233.
Childhood-maltreatment subtypes in bipolar patients with suicidal behavior: systematic review and meta-analysis. Braz J Psychiatry. 2020;42(5):558-567.
Mental Health Problems and Risk of Suicidal Ideation and Attempts in Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2020;146(1).
Brazilian research on child and adolescent suicide: looking at the past to plan the future. Braz J Psychiatry. 2020;42(5):570-572.
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