glutamate and unipolar depression




(Updated 9/13/04)

Paul IA, Skolnick P
Glutamate and depression: clinical and preclinical studies.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Nov;1003250-72.
The past decade has seen a steady accumulation of evidence supporting a role for the excitatory amino acid (EAA) neurotransmitter, glutamate, and its receptors in depression and antidepressant activity. To date, evidence has emerged indicating that N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists, group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR1 and mGluR5) antagonists, as well as positive modulators of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors have antidepressant-like activity in a variety of preclinical models. Moreover, antidepressant-like activity can be produced not only by drugs modulating the glutamatergic synapse, but also by agents that affect subcellular signaling systems linked to EAA receptors (e.g., nitric oxide synthase). In view of the extensive colocalization of EAA and monoamine markers in nuclei such as the locus coeruleus and dorsal raphe, it is likely that an intimate relationship exists between regulation of monoaminergic and EAA neurotransmission and antidepressant effects. Further, there is also evidence implicating disturbances in glutamate metabolism, NMDA, and mGluR1,5 receptors in depression and suicidality. Finally, recent data indicate that a single intravenous dose of an NMDA receptor antagonist is sufficient to produce sustained relief from depressive symptoms. Taken together with the proposed role of neurotrophic factors in the neuroplastic responses to stressors and antidepressant treatments, these findings represent exciting and novel avenues to both understand depressive symptomatology and develop more effective antidepressants. [Abstract]

Auer DP, Pütz B, Kraft E, Lipinski B, Schill J, Holsboer F
Reduced glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex in depression: an in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study.
Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Feb 15;47(4):305-13.
BACKGROUND: Functional imaging studies suggest a specific role of the anterior brain regions in the pathogenesis of major depression. The aim of this study was to evaluate possible neurochemical alterations in the frontomesial cortex in patients with major depressive episode using in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H-MRS). METHODS: Single voxel (1)H-MRS was performed in 19 patients with major depressive episodes and 18 age-matched healthy controls within the anterior cingulate cortex and the parietal white matter. Absolute concentrations were estimated for N-acetyl-aspartate, choline-containing compounds, total creatine, myo-inositol, unresolved glutamate and glutamine (Glx) and glutamate alone (Glu). Voxel composition was analyzed by image segmentation into cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), grey and white matter. RESULTS: MANOVA test for Glx and Glu using age, percent CSF and percent grey matter contribution as covariates yielded a significant group effect within the anterior cingulate due to decrease of Glx in patients (-10.4%, p =.013). Considering only severely depressed patients, both Glx and Glu (-14.3%, p =.03) showed a significant decrease. There was no significant group effect for the neuronal marker NAA, creatine, choline or myo-inositol in either localization. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests a possible role of altered glutamatergic neurotransmission within the anterior cingulate in the pathogenesis of mood disorders. The otherwise unremarkable findings of major brain metabolites confirms lack of neurodegenerative or membrane metabolic changes in major depression. [Abstract]

Mirza Y, Tang J, Russell A, Banerjee SP, Bhandari R, Ivey J, Rose M, Moore GJ, Rosenberg DR
Reduced anterior cingulate cortex glutamatergic concentrations in childhood major depression.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Mar;43(3):341-8.
OBJECTIVE: To examine in vivo glutamatergic neurochemical alterations in the anterior cingulate cortex of children with major depressive disorder (MDD). METHOD: Single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic (H-MRS) examinations of the anterior cingulate cortex were conducted in 13 psychotropic-naïve children and adolescents with MDD and 13 age- and sex-matched healthy children and adolescents. Ten of the 13 MDD patient-control pairs also had a H-MRS examination of occipital cortex. RESULTS: Anterior cingulate glutamatergic (Glx) concentrations were significantly lower (19% decrease) in MDD patients versus controls (9.27 +/- 0.43 versus 11.47 +/- 0.26, respectively, p = 0.000). Reduced anterior cingulate Glx in MDD patients was associated with increased severity of functional impairment. These results remained comparably significant after controlling for age and anterior cingulate volume. Occipital cortex Glx did not differ between MDD patients and controls. CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary findings provide new evidence of localized functional neurochemical marker alterations in Glx in anterior cingulate cortex in pediatric MDD. Altered anterior cingulate Glx neurotransmission may be involved in the pathogenesis of MDD. [Abstract]

Rosenberg DR, Mirza Y, Russell A, Tang J, Smith JM, Banerjee SP, Bhandari R, Rose M, Ivey J, Boyd C, Moore GJ.
Reduced Anterior Cingulate Glutamatergic Concentrations in Childhood OCD and Major Depression Versus Healthy Controls.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Sep;43(9):1146-1153.
OBJECTIVE:: To examine in vivo glutamatergic neurochemical alterations in the anterior cingulate cortex of pediatric patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) without major depressive disorder (MDD) versus pediatric patients with MDD without OCD and healthy controls. METHOD:: Single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic examinations of the anterior cingulate cortex were conducted in 14 psychotropic-naive children and adolescents with MDD without OCD, 10 to 19 years of age, 14 case-matched healthy controls, and 20 nondepressed, psychotropic-naive pediatric patients with OCD 7 to 19 years of age. RESULTS:: Anterior cingulate glutamatergic concentrations were significantly reduced in both patients with OCD (15.1% decrease) and patients with MDD (18.7% decrease) compared with controls. Anterior cingulate glutamatergic concentrations did not differ significantly between patients with OCD and those with MDD. CONCLUSIONS:: Altered anterior cingulate glutamatergic neurotransmission may be involved in the pathogenesis of OCD and MDD. These preliminary findings further suggest that reduced anterior cingulate glutamate does not differentiate pediatric patients with OCD from pediatric patients with MDD. [Abstract]

Pfleiderer B, Michael N, Erfurth A, Ohrmann P, Hohmann U, Wolgast M, Fiebich M, Arolt V, Heindel W
Effective electroconvulsive therapy reverses glutamate/glutamine deficit in the left anterior cingulum of unipolar depressed patients.
Psychiatry Res. 2003 Apr 1;122(3):185-92.
Cortical glutamate/glutamine (Glx) metabolism seems to be affected by a major depressive disorder. Recently, a Glx deficit was detected by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) in the bilateral anterior cingulum of depressives. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of successful electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on Glx levels in the anterior cingulum. The left anterior cingulum of 17 severely depressed unipolar patients was measured by 1H STEAM spectroscopy before and after ECT, and the results were compared with those for 17 age- and gender-matched controls. We observed significantly reduced Glx levels in the patients' left cingulum compared to healthy controls. In ECT responders, in contrast to non-responders, Glx levels normalized (P=0.04) and then did not differ statistically from controls. Severe depression seems to be associated with a Glx deficit and increasing Glx may be an important mechanism of ECT action. [Abstract]

Sanacora G, Gueorguieva R, Epperson CN, Wu YT, Appel M, Rothman DL, Krystal JH, Mason GF
Subtype-specific alterations of gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate in patients with major depression.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004 Jul;61(7):705-13.
BACKGROUND: Measurement of cortical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate concentrations is possible using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. An initial report, using this technique, suggested that occipital cortex GABA concentrations are reduced in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) relative to healthy comparison subjects. OBJECTIVES: To replicate the GABA findings in a larger sample of MDD patients, to examine the clinical correlates of the GABA reductions in these subjects, and to examine other critical metabolite levels. DESIGN: Study for association. SETTING: Academic clinical research program. PARTICIPANTS: The GABA measurements were made on 38 healthy control subjects and 33 depressed subjects. INTERVENTIONS: Occipital cortex metabolite levels were measured using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The levels of occipital cortex GABA, glutamate, N-acetylaspartate, aspartate, creatine, and choline-containing compounds, along with several measures of tissue composition, were compared between the 2 groups. RESULTS: Depressed subjects had significantly lower occipital cortex GABA concentrations compared with healthy controls (P =.01). In addition, mean glutamate levels were significantly increased in depressed subjects compared with healthy controls (P<.001). Significant reductions in the percentage of solid tissue (P =.009) and the percentage of white matter (P =.04) in the voxel were also observed. An examination of a combined database including subjects from the original study suggests that GABA and glutamate concentrations differ among MDD subtypes. CONCLUSIONS: The study replicates the findings of decreased GABA concentrations in the occipital cortex of subjects with MDD. It also demonstrates that there is a change in the ratio of excitatory-inhibitory neurotransmitter levels in the cortex of depressed subjects that may be related to altered brain function. Last, the combined data set suggests that magnetic resonance spectroscopy GABA measures may serve as a biological marker for a subtype of MDD. [Abstract]

Michael N, Erfurth A, Ohrmann P, Arolt V, Heindel W, Pfleiderer B
Metabolic changes within the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex occurring with electroconvulsive therapy in patients with treatment resistant unipolar depression.
Psychol Med. 2003 Oct;33(7):1277-84.
BACKGROUND: The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is involved in the pathophysiology of major depression. In particular, metabolic (functional hypometabolism) and structural alterations have been described. In this study metabolic changes within the DLPFC of severely depressed patients before and after electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) were evaluated by proton STEAM spectroscopy (1H-MRS). METHOD: Twelve severely depressed patients with a diagnosis of major depressive episode, unipolar with melancholic features (DSM-IV), were enrolled, and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was investigated before and after unilateral ECT by 1H-MRS. Three of the four non-responding patients were remeasured a third time after a combined ECT/antidepressant pharmacotherapy. The results were compared with 12 age- and gender-matched controls. RESULTS: In depressed patients reduced glutamate/glutamine (Glx) levels were measured pre-ECT; Glx concentrations correlated negatively with severity of depression. After successful treatment, Glx increased significantly and levels no longer differed from those of age-matched controls. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that major depressive disorder is accompanied by state-dependent metabolic alterations, especially in glutamate/glutamine metabolism, which can be reversed by successful ECT. [Abstract]

Michael N, Erfurth A, Ohrmann P, Arolt V, Heindel W, Pfleiderer B
Neurotrophic effects of electroconvulsive therapy: a proton magnetic resonance study of the left amygdalar region in patients with treatment-resistant depression.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Apr;28(4):720-5.
Negatively balanced neurotrophic factors may be important in precipitating clinical depression. Recently, it has been reported that antidepressant therapy may exert positive neurotrophic effects. The aim of this study was to detect probable neurotrophic changes during electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). For this purpose, N-acetylaspartate (NAA), an amino acid exclusively located in neurons, and other brain metabolites such as glutamine/glutamate (Glx), choline (Cho), and creatine (Cr) were measured in patients by localized proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. A total of 28 severely depressed patients (DSM-IV) were enrolled, and the left amygdalar region was investigated by proton STEAM spectroscopy before and after unilateral ECT. The results were compared with 28 age- and gender-matched controls using nonparametric paired and unpaired tests. A significant increase in NAA was observed only in ECT responders (n=14; p=0.019). Five out of 14 nonresponders to ECT monotherapy were remeasured following a clinical improvement after continued ECT combined with antidepressants and were then found also to present a significant increase in NAA. In all successfully treated patients, parallel observations, that is, increased levels, were made for Glx, whereas Cho and Cr were unchanged. In conclusion, our preliminary finding of increased NAA concentrations after successful ECT may indicate a probable neurotrophic effect of ECT. [Abstract]

Sapolsky RM
The possibility of neurotoxicity in the hippocampus in major depression: a primer on neuron death.
Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Oct 15;48(8):755-65.
A number of studies indicate that prolonged, major depression is associated with a selective loss of hippocampal volume that persists long after the depression has resolved. This review is prompted by two ideas. The first is that overt neuron loss may be a contributing factor to the decrease in hippocampal volume. As such, the first half of this article reviews current knowledge about how hippocampal neurons die during insults, focusing on issues related to the trafficking of glutamate and calcium, glutamate receptor subtypes, oxygen radical generation, programmed cell death, and neuronal defenses. This is meant to orient the reader toward the biology that is likely to underlie any such instances of neuron loss in major depression. The second idea is that glucocorticoids, the adrenal steroids secreted during stress, may play a contributing role to any such neuron loss. The subtypes of depression associated with the hippocampal atrophy typically involve significant hypersecretion of glucocorticoids, and the steroid has a variety of adverse effects in the hippocampus, including causing overt neuron loss. The second half of this article reviews the steps in this cascade of hippocampal neuron death that are regulated by glucocorticoids. [Abstract]

Nowak G
Does interaction between zinc and glutamate system play a significant role in the mechanism of antidepressant action?
Acta Pol Pharm. 2001 Jan-Feb;58(1):73-5.
In the central nervous system, zinc modulates predominantly the excitatory amino acid (glutamatergic) neurotransmission. Recent studies demonstrated that chronic antidepressant treatment, which is required for clinical improvement, reduced the reactivity/function of the glutamate/NMDA receptor complex and altered zinc concentration/interaction with this receptor type in the rodent brain. In the cerebral cortex: chronic antidepressant treatment "down-regulated" (reduced density/affinity) of the cortical (but not hippocampal) NMDA receptors measured by radioligand-receptor binding methods. Moreover, chronic imipramine treatment increased the ability of zinc ion to inhibit the NMDA receptor complex in the cerebral cortex but not in the hippocampus. In the hippocampus: chronic treatment with antidepressant drugs (imipramine or citalopram) increased the hippocampus/brain region ratio of zinc concentration, which may indicate redistribution of the rat brain zinc. On the other hand, electroconvulsive shocks induced robust increase of zinc concentration in the hippocampus (with a slight effect in the rest of brain). In spite of the lack of alterations in the hippocampal NMDA receptors (measured by receptor binding methods), inhibitory effect of the increased hippocampal zinc concentration induced by chronic antidepressant treatment, may be responsible for reduction in the function of that receptor complex also in the hippocampus. These data indicate a critical and complex role of the interaction between zinc and NMDA receptor complex in the mechanism of antidepressant treatment and strongly support the glutamate hypothesis of the mechanism of antidepressant action. [Abstract]

Skolnick P, Layer RT, Popik P, Nowak G, Paul IA, Trullas R
Adaptation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors following antidepressant treatment: implications for the pharmacotherapy of depression.
Pharmacopsychiatry. 1996 Jan;29(1):23-6.
NMDA antagonists mimic the effects of clinically effective antidepressants in both preclinical tests predictive of antidepressant action and procedures designed to model aspects of depressive symptomatology. These findings led to experiments demonstrating that chronic administration of NMDA antagonists to rodents results in a downregulation of cortical beta-adrenoceptors, a phenomenon also observed following chronic treatment with many antidepressants. These neurochemical and behavioral similarities between antidepressants and NMDA antagonists prompted us to examine the impact of chronic antidepressant treatment on NMDA receptors. Chronic (14 days) but not acute (1 day) administration of seventeen different antidepressants to mice produced adaptive changes in radioligand binding to NMDA receptors. Detailed studies with three antidepressants (imipramine, citalopram, and electroconvulsive shock) show that these changes develop slowly, persist for some time after cessation of treatment, and (for imipramine and citalopram) are dose dependent. Moreover, following chronic treatment with imipramine, these changes in radioligand binding to NMDA receptors appear restricted to the cerebral cortex. Based on the consistency of these effects across antidepressant treatments, we propose that adaptive changes in NMDA receptors may be the final common pathway for antidepressant action. The recent demonstration (Nowak et al., 1995) that radioligand binding to NMDA receptors is altered in frontal cortex of suicide victims (compared to age and post-mortem interval matched controls) is consistent with the hypothesis (Trullas and Skolnick, 1990) that this family of ligand gated ion channels is involved in the pathophysiology of depression. [Abstract]

Michael-Titus AT, Bains S, Jeetle J, Whelpton R
Imipramine and phenelzine decrease glutamate overflow in the prefrontal cortex--a possible mechanism of neuroprotection in major depression?
Neuroscience. 2000;100(4):681-4.
Antidepressant drugs have been used for decades, but the neurobiological substrate of their efficacy is not completely understood. Although these drugs have well-established effects on monoamines, evidence is emerging that they may also affect other neurotransmitter systems. It has been shown that treatment with a wide range of antidepressants changes the binding characteristics of the N-methyl-D-aspartate type of glutamate receptor. This change is delayed and occurs only in the cortex. The mechanism that triggers it is unknown. We hypothesized that N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor alterations may be due to changes in the dynamics of cortical excitatory amino acid release. Such changes are of particular interest in areas such as the prefrontal cortex, a region involved in stress responses and affected in major depression. We investigated the effects of two antidepressants with different modes of action, imipramine and phenelzine, on glutamate and aspartate outflow in rat prefrontal cortex and striatum. We showed that antidepressants significantly decreased stimulated glutamate outflow. The effect had a rapid onset, was sustained during chronic administration and was only seen in the prefrontal cortex. This change may initiate receptor alterations. Furthermore, if antidepressants can dampen states of hyperglutamatergic activity and the subsequent excitotoxicity, their chronic use may have a considerable neuroprotective potential in major depression. [Abstract]

Berman RM, Cappiello A, Anand A, Oren DA, Heninger GR, Charney DS, Krystal JH
Antidepressant effects of ketamine in depressed patients.
Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Feb 15;47(4):351-4.
BACKGROUND: A growing body of preclinical research suggests that brain glutamate systems may be involved in the pathophysiology of major depression and the mechanism of action of antidepressants. This is the first placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial to assess the treatment effects of a single dose of an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist in patients with depression. METHODS: Seven subjects with major depression completed 2 test days that involved intravenous treatment with ketamine hydrochloride (.5 mg/kg) or saline solutions under randomized, double-blind conditions. RESULTS: Subjects with depression evidenced significant improvement in depressive symptoms within 72 hours after ketamine but not placebo infusion (i.e., mean 25-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores decreased by 14 +/- SD 10 points vs. 0 +/- 12 points, respectively during active and sham treatment). CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest a potential role for NMDA receptor-modulating drugs in the treatment of depression. [Abstract]

Kudoh A, Takahira Y, Katagai H, Takazawa T
Small-dose ketamine improves the postoperative state of depressed patients.
Anesth Analg. 2002 Jul;95(1):114-8, table of contents.
We investigated whether ketamine is suitable for depressed patients who had undergone orthopedic surgery. We studied 70 patients with major depression and 25 patients as the control (Group C). The depressed patients were divided randomly into two groups; patients in Group A (n = 35) were induced with propofol, fentanyl, and ketamine and patients in Group B (n = 35) were induced with propofol and fentanyl, and all patients were maintained with 1.5%-2.0% isoflurane plus nitrous oxide. The mean Hamilton Depression Rating (HDR) score was 12.7 +/- 5.4 for Group A and 12.3 +/- 6.0 for Group B 2 days before surgery and 9.9 +/- 4.1 for Group A and 14.4 +/- 3.8 for Group B 1 day after surgery. The HDR score in Group A 1 day after surgery was significantly (P < 0.05) lower than that in Group B. The HDR score in Group C was 4.2 +/- 1.7 2 days before surgery and 4.8 +/- 1.6 1 day after surgery. Depressed mood, suicidal tendencies, somatic anxiety, and hypochondriasis significantly decreased in Group A as compared with Group B. Postoperative pain scores in Group A at 8 and 16 h after the end of anesthesia were 26.6 +/- 8.7 and 24.9 +/- 8.2, respectively, which were significantly (P < 0.05) lower than 34.3 +/- 12.0 and 31.1 +/- 8.8 in Group B. In conclusion, small-dose ketamine improved the postoperative depressive state and relieved postoperative pain in depressed patients. IMPLICATIONS: NMDA receptor antagonists are reported to be effective for improving depression. It remains unclear whether ketamine, which is an NMDA receptor antagonist, postoperatively affects the psychological state in depressed patients. We investigated the effect of 1.0 mg/kg of ketamine on postoperative outcomes in depressed patients. [Abstract]

Joanny P, Steinberg J, Oliver C, Grino M.
Glutamate and N-methyl-D-aspartate stimulate rat hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing factor secretion in vitro.
J Neuroendocrinol. 1997 Feb;9(2):93-7.
It is known that in vivo excitatory amino acids (EAA) stimulate the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. However their site of action is not fully understood. We investigated the possibility of a direct action of EAA on the secretion of the major adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) secretagogue: corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) from incubated rat hypothalamic slices. N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) or L-glutamate (1 x 10(-7) to 1 x 10(-3) M) stimulated in a dose-dependent fashion CRF release. The maximal effect was obtained at a concentration of 1 x 10(-4) M for both drugs. The IC50 was 1.3 x 10(-5) M and 3.3 x 10(-5) M for NMDA and L-glutamate, respectively. Incubation with 2.5 x 10(-4) M D-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (a NMDA receptor antagonist) or 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (a metabotropic receptor antagonist) was without significant effect on basal CRF secretion and completely blocked the increase in CRF release induced by 5 x 10(-5) M NMDA or L-glutamate, respectively. Incubation with 1 x 10(-4) M kainate or 0.5 x 10(-4) M AMPA did not change basal CRF secretion. Incubation with 2 x 10(-4) M gamma-D-glutamylglycine (a specific antagonist of kainate and AMPA receptor) had no effect under basal conditions or during exposure to kainate or AMPA. Our data demonstrate that EAA could stimulate directly CRF secretion, by an action through NMDA and metabotropic receptors, but not kainate or AMPA receptors. These findings may be relevant to the regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal axis, both under basal conditions and during exposure to stress. [Abstract]

Berk M, Plein H, Ferreira D
Platelet glutamate receptor supersensitivity in major depressive disorder.
Clin Neuropharmacol. 2001 May-Jun;24(3):129-32.
Dysregulation of glutamate has been described in depression, and supersensitivity of platelet glutamate receptors has been found in both psychotic major depression and schizophrenia. The aim of this study was to examine the platelet glutamate receptor sensitivity in patients with nonpsychotic, unipolar major depression to assess whether this is a marker of depression or of psychosis. Glutamate receptor sensitivity was assessed using the platelet intracellular calcium response to glutamate (0-100 micromol) measured by spectrofluorometry. The depression group showed a significantly greater platelet intracellular calcium response to glutamate stimulation than the control group, both in terms of absolute values (p = 0.007) and percentage of response from baseline (p = 0.030). These data suggest that platelet glutamate receptors may be supersensitive in depression and that the platelet may be a possible peripheral marker of glutamate function in depression. [Abstract]

Mauri MC, Ferrara A, Boscati L, Bravin S, Zamberlan F, Alecci M, Invernizzi G
Plasma and platelet amino acid concentrations in patients affected by major depression and under fluvoxamine treatment.
Neuropsychobiology. 1998;37(3):124-9.
Plasma and platelet levels of 18 amino acids were measured in 29 outpatients (mean age +/- SD 47.41 +/- 10.85 years; 14 F, 15 M) affected by major depression (DSM IV) and in 28 healthy volunteers (mean age 42.46 +/- 14.19 years; 12 F, 16 M). Plasma and platelet levels of amino acids tended to be higher in depressed patients than in healthy controls. In particular, glutamate, taurine and lysine plasma levels and aspartate, serine and lysine platelet levels were significantly higher. Tryptophan/large neutral amino acids ratio (trp/LNAAs) was significantly lower in depressed patients. Fluvoxamine treatment did not influence plasma and platelet levels of amino acids or trp/LNAAs ratio. [Abstract]

Maes M, Verkerk R, Vandoolaeghe E, Lin A, Scharpé S
Serum levels of excitatory amino acids, serine, glycine, histidine, threonine, taurine, alanine and arginine in treatment-resistant depression: modulation by treatment with antidepressants and prediction of clinical responsivity.
Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1998 Apr;97(4):302-8.
Previous research has revealed that major depression is accompanied by disorders in excitatory amino acids, e.g. glutamate and aspartate, and alterations in serum levels of other amino acids, e.g. serine, glycine and taurine. The aim of the present study was to examine serum levels of aspartate, asparagine, glutamate, glutamine, serine, glycine, threonine, histidine, alanine, taurine and arginine in major depression patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). No significant differences in the serum concentrations of any of the above amino acids could be found between patients with and without TRD and normal controls. Non-responders to treatment with antidepressants during a period of 5 weeks were characterized by significantly lower serum levels of aspartate, asparagine, serine, threonine and taurine. A 5-week period of treatment with antidepressants significantly reduced the serum levels of aspartate, glutamate and taurine, and significantly increased the serum concentrations of glutamine. The results suggest that alterations in serum levels of aspartate, asparagine, serine, threonine and taurine may predict the subsequent response to treatment with antidepressants, and that the latter may modulate serum levels of excitatory amino acids and taurine. [Abstract]

Altamura C, Maes M, Dai J, Meltzer HY
Plasma concentrations of excitatory amino acids, serine, glycine, taurine and histidine in major depression.
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1995;5 Suppl71-5.
This study was carried out to investigate plasma levels of excitatory amino acids, such as glutamate and aspartate, and glutamine, serine, glycine, taurine and histidine in major depression. The plasma amino acids were determined by means of HPLC in 22 normal controls and 25 unmedicated patients with major depression. Major depression was characterized by higher plasma taurine levels than normal controls. Significantly lower plasma glycine values and a higher serine/glycine ratio were observed in the depressed group. No significant differences in glutamine, histidine, serine or aspartate levels could be detected between the study groups. By means of linear discriminant analysis, a highly significant separation between major depressed subjects and normal volunteers was found using glycine, glutamate and taurine as discriminatory variables. No significant relationships between any of the amino acids and severity of depression could be found. The results suggest that major depression is accompanied by perturbations in the serine/glycine ratio, excitatory amino acids, such as glutamate, and inhibitory amino acids, such as taurine. [Abstract]

Levine J, Panchalingam K, Rapoport A, Gershon S, McClure RJ, Pettegrew JW
Increased cerebrospinal fluid glutamine levels in depressed patients.
Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Apr 1;47(7):586-93.
BACKGROUND: There is increasing evidence for an association between alterations of brain glutamatergic neurotransmission and the pathophysiology of affective disorders. METHODS: We studied the association between cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) metabolites, including glutamine, in unipolar and bipolar depressed patients versus control subjects using a proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy technique. Cerebrospinal fluid samples were obtained from 18 hospitalized patients with acute unmedicated severe depression without medical problems and compared with those of 22 control subjects. RESULTS: Compared with the control group, the depressed patient group had significantly higher CSF glutamine concentrations, which correlated positively with CSF magnesium levels. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest an abnormality of the brain glial-neuronal glutamine/glutamate cycle associated with N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor systems in patients with depression. [Abstract]

McCullumsmith RE, Meador-Woodruff JH
Striatal excitatory amino acid transporter transcript expression in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Mar;26(3):368-75.
Because abnormalities of glutamatergic neurotransmission in psychiatric illness are likely not limited to glutamate receptor expression, we investigated expression of excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) in the striatum. The EAATs, normally expressed in both glia (EAAT1 and EAAT2) and neurons (EAAT3 and EAAT4), have previously been implicated in Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and schizophrenia. In this study, we investigated striatal expression of transcripts encoding EAATs in tissue from mood disordered and schizophrenic subjects. With probes designed for the human EAAT1, EAAT2, EAAT3, and EAAT4 transcripts, we performed in situ hybridization and detected decreased expression of EAAT3 and EAAT4 transcripts in the striatum in bipolar disorder. We also detected decreased EAAT3 transcript expression in schizophrenia and decreased EAAT4 transcript expression in major depressive disorder. These results suggest that changes in striatal transporter mRNA expression are restricted to neuronal EAATs and extend the body of evidence implicating abnormal glutamatergic neurotransmission in schizophrenia and mood disorders. [Abstract]

Francis PT, Poynton A, Lowe SL, Najlerahim A, Bridges PK, Bartlett JR, Procter AW, Bruton CJ, Bowen DM
Brain amino acid concentrations and Ca2+-dependent release in intractable depression assessed antemortem.
Brain Res. 1989 Aug 14;494(2):315-24.
The concentrations of 3 putative neurotransmitters (glutamate, aspartate and gamma-aminobutyrate), 4 related amino acids and 5 non-transmitter-related amino acids have been measured in neurosurgical samples (frontal cortex) from patients with intractable depression and controls. In addition, the glutamate receptor agonist 2-amino-4-sulpho-butanoic acid (homocysteic acid) has been identified in human brain and measured in these samples. There were no changes in the concentrations of amino acids in depressed patients compared to control with the exception of aspartic and homocysteic acids which were elevated in a sub-group of patients with depression compared to control. The Ca2+-dependent release (K+-stimulated) of putative neurotransmitters has been demonstrated for the first time from brain tissue of depressed patients. Glutamate release was unaltered from the control value. Aspartate values showed unexplained variability but it's release and that of gamma-aminobutyrate were elevated in some depressed subjects. These results do not support the hypothesis of reduced amino acid function in depressive illness. [Abstract]

Meador-Woodruff JH, Hogg AJ, Smith RE
Striatal ionotropic glutamate receptor expression in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder.
Brain Res Bull. 2001 Jul 15;55(5):631-40.
Abnormalities of the ionotropic glutamate receptors (N-methyl-D-aspartate, alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazole-4-propionic acid [AMPA], and kainate) have been reported in the brain in schizophrenia, although in complex, region-specific patterns. While limbic cortex and medial temporal lobe structures have been most often studied in psychiatric illnesses, glutamate receptors are expressed in other brain regions associated with limbic circuitry, especially the striatum. In this study, we have determined striatal ionotropic glutamate receptor expression in brains from persons with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and a comparison group, using samples from the Stanley Foundation Neuropathology Consortium. We have determined the expression of these receptors at multiple levels of gene expression by using both in situ hybridization and receptor autoradiography. The expression of nearly all of these molecules was not different in these psychiatric conditions. The only significant changes noted were NR2D and gluR1 transcripts, and [(3)H]AMPA binding. This is the first comprehensive study of striatal ionotropic glutamate receptor expression in schizophrenia and affective disorders, and suggests that there are minimal changes in these receptors in this region of the brain in these illnesses. [Abstract]

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Recent Glutamate and Depression Research

1) Tao R, Li C, Newburn EN, Ye T, Lipska BK, Herman MM, Weinberger DR, Kleinman JE, Hyde TM
Transcript-specific associations of SLC12A5 (KCC2) in human prefrontal cortex with development, schizophrenia, and affective disorders.
J Neurosci. 2012 Apr 11;32(15):5216-22.
The neuron-specific K(+)-Cl(-) cotransporter SLC12A5, also known as KCC2, helps mediate the electrophysiological effects of GABA. The pattern of KCC2 expression during early brain development suggests that its upregulation drives the postsynaptic switch of GABA from excitation to inhibition. We previously found decreased expression of full-length KCC2 in the postmortem hippocampus of patients with schizophrenia, but not in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Using PCR and rapid amplification of cDNA ends, we discovered several previously unrecognized alternative KCC2 transcripts in both human adult and fetal brain in addition to the previously identified full-length (NM_020708.3) and truncated (AK098371) transcripts. We measured the expression levels of four relatively abundant truncated splice variants, including three novel transcripts (?EXON6, EXON2B, and EXON6B) and one previously described transcript (AK098371), in a large human cohort of nonpsychiatric controls across the lifespan, and in patients with schizophrenia and affective disorders. In SH-SY5Y cell lines, these transcripts were translated into proteins and expressed at their predicted sizes. Expression of the EXON6B transcript is increased in the DLPFC of patients with schizophrenia (p = 0.03) but decreased in patients with major depression (p = 0.04). The expression of AK098371 is associated with a GAD1 single nucleotide polymorphism (rs3749034) that previously has been associated with GAD67 expression and risk for schizophrenia. Our data confirm the developmental regulation of KCC2 expression, and provide evidence that KCC2 transcripts are differentially expressed in schizophrenia and affective disorders. Alternate transcripts from KCC2 may participate in the abnormal GABA signaling in the DLPFC associated with schizophrenia. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

2) Szakacs R, Janka Z, Kalman J
The "blue" side of glutamatergic neurotransmission: NMDA receptor antagonists as possible novel therapeutics for major depression.
Neuropsychopharmacol Hung. 2012 Mar;14(1):29-40.
In spite of the wide-ranging, continuously expanding arsenal of antidepressants and intensive research on depression, the treatment of severe, recurrent mood disorders as well as antidepressant-resistant refractory mood disturbances has not yet entirely been solved. In this article we attempt to review some data from the growing body of evidence that underlie the presumed implication of the glutamatergic neurotransmission in severe mood disorders and thereby some strategies allowing reinstatement of the normal functioning of the glutamatergic system, particularly through N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Thus, here we focus on one of the most promising ones, the NMDA receptor-modulating agents including competitive NMDA antagonists, glycine site partial antagonists and channel site antagonists: high- and low-affinity non-competitive NMDA receptor blockers. The glutamate-modulating therapies that specifically affect this system, above all low-affinity non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonists such as amantadine and its derivative memantine which are clinically well tolerated and currently used in other indications hold considerable promise for the development of new, improved antidepressants to treat severe, recurrent and refractory mood disorders. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

3) Krishnadas R, Cavanagh J
Depression: an inflammatory illness?
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2012 May;83(5):495-502.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Findings from preclinical and clinical studies suggest that psychiatric illnesses, particularly MDD, are associated with inflammatory processes. While it is unlikely that MDD is a primary 'inflammatory' disorder, there is now evidence to suggest that inflammation may play a subtle role in the pathophysiology of MDD. Most of the evidence that links inflammation to MDD comes from three observations: (a) one-third of those with major depression show elevated peripheral inflammatory biomarkers, even in the absence of a medical illness; (b) inflammatory illnesses are associated with greater rates of MDD; and (c) patients treated with cytokines are at greater risk of developing major depressive illness. We now know that the brain is not an immune privileged organ. Inflammatory mediators have been found to affect various substrates thought to be important in the aetiopathogenesis of MDD, including altered monoamine and glutamate neurotransmission, glucocorticoid receptor resistance and adult hippocampal neurogenesis. At a higher level, inflammation is thought to affect brain signalling patterns, cognition and the production of a constellation of symptoms, termed 'sickness behaviour'. Inflammation may therefore play a role in the aetiology of depression, at least in a 'cohort' of vulnerable individuals. Inflammation may not only act as a precipitating factor that pushes a person into depression but also a perpetuating factor that may pose an obstacle to recovery. More importantly, inflammatory markers may aid in the diagnosis and prediction of treatment response, leading to the possibility of tailored treatments, thereby allowing stratification of what remains a heterogenous disorder. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

4) Mathew SJ, Shah A, Lapidus K, Clark C, Jarun N, Ostermeyer B, Murrough JW
Ketamine for treatment-resistant unipolar depression: current evidence.
CNS Drugs. 2012 Mar 1;26(3):189-204.
Currently available drugs for unipolar major depressive disorder (MDD), which target monoaminergic systems, have a delayed onset of action and significant limitations in efficacy. Antidepressants with primary pharmacological targets outside the monoamine system may offer the potential for more rapid activity with improved therapeutic benefit. The glutamate system has been scrutinized as a target for antidepressant drug discovery. The purpose of this article is to review emerging literature on the potential rapid-onset antidepressant properties of the glutamate NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine, an established anaesthetic agent. The pharmacology of ketamine and its enantiomer S-ketamine is reviewed, followed by examples of its clinical application in chronic, refractory pain conditions, which are commonly co-morbid with depression. The first generation of studies in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) reported the safety and acute efficacy of a single subanaesthetic dose (0.5?mg/kg) of intravenous ketamine. A second generation of ketamine studies is focused on testing alternate routes of drug delivery, identifying methods to prevent relapse following resolution of depressive symptoms and understanding the neural basis for the putative antidepressant actions of ketamine. In addition to traditional depression rating endpoints, ongoing research is examining the impact of ketamine on neurocognition. Although the first clinical report in MDD was published in 2000, there is a paucity of adequately controlled double-blind trials, and limited clinical experience outside of research settings. Given the potential risks of ketamine, safety considerations will ultimately determine whether this old drug is successfully repositioned as a new therapy for TRD. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

5) Meyer JH
Neuroimaging markers of cellular function in major depressive disorder: implications for therapeutics, personalized medicine, and prevention.
Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Feb;91(2):201-14.
It is estimated that 15% of all individuals will experience a major depressive episode (MDE) during their lifetime and that treatment response is inadequate in 40% of these cases. To address this, neuroimaging is being used to identify MDE subtypes and mechanisms of onset as well as to optimize target occupancy of novel treatments. Neuroimaging of monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) binding; glutamate levels; indexes of 5-HT(2A), 5-HTT, 5-HT(1A), and 5-HT(1B) receptors; levels of dopamine transporters D(1) and D(2); and hippocampal volume are described here. Three themes emerge. First, symptoms such as pessimism, motor retardation, anxiety disorder, and verbal memory deficits best indicate the subtype of depression. Second, measures related to mechanisms of monoamine loss, particularly elevated MAO-A binding in prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, are present in MDE and in high-risk states for MDE. Third, clinical trials show a consistent 80% 5-HTT occupancy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors at doses sufficient to distinguish from placebo in clinical trials (although in vitro affinities vary 100-fold), thereby supporting the need for further occupancy studies to accelerate therapeutic development. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

6) Duman RS, Voleti B
Signaling pathways underlying the pathophysiology and treatment of depression: novel mechanisms for rapid-acting agents.
Trends Neurosci. 2012 Jan;35(1):47-56.
Basic and clinical studies demonstrate that stress and depression are associated with atrophy and loss of neurons and glia, which contribute to the decreased size and function of limbic brain regions that control mood and depression, including the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Here, we review findings that suggest that opposing effects of stress and/or depression and antidepressants on neurotrophic factor expression and signaling partly explain these effects. We also discuss recent reports that suggest a possible role for glycogen synthase kinase 3 and upstream wingless (Wnt)-frizzled (Fz) signaling pathways in mood disorders. New studies also demonstrate that the rapid antidepressant actions of NMDA receptor antagonists are associated with activation of glutamate transmission and induction of synaptogenesis, providing novel targets for a new generation of fast-acting, more efficacious therapeutic agents. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

7) Murrough JW
Ketamine as a novel antidepressant: from synapse to behavior.
Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Feb;91(2):303-9.
Recent reports of a rapid antidepressant effect of the glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist ketamine, even in treatment-resistant populations, have spurred translational therapeutic and neuroscience research aimed at elucidating ketamine's mechanism of action. This article provides a concise overview of research findings that pertain to the effects of low-dose ketamine at the cellular, neurocircuitry, and behavioral levels and describes an integrated model of the action of ketamine in the treatment of depression. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

8) Covvey JR, Crawford AN, Lowe DK
Intravenous ketamine for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.
Ann Pharmacother. 2012 Jan;46(1):117-23.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

9) Lai CH, Lane HY, Tsai GE
Clinical and cerebral volumetric effects of sodium benzoate, a D-amino acid oxidase inhibitor, in a drug-naïve patient with major depression.
Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Feb 15;71(4):e9-e10.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

10) Machado-Vieira R, Ibrahim L, Henter ID, Zarate CA
Novel glutamatergic agents for major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2012 Feb;100(4):678-87.
Mood disorders such as major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BPD) are common, chronic, recurrent mental illnesses that affect the lives and functioning of millions of individuals worldwide. Growing evidence suggests that the glutamatergic system is central to the neurobiology and treatment of these disorders. Here, we review data supporting the involvement of the glutamatergic system in the pathophysiology of mood disorders as well as the efficacy of glutamatergic agents as novel therapeutics. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

11) Utge S, Kronholm E, Partonen T, Soronen P, Ollila HM, Loukola A, Perola M, Salomaa V, Porkka-Heiskanen T, Paunio T
Shared genetic background for regulation of mood and sleep: association of GRIA3 with sleep duration in healthy Finnish women.
Sleep. 2011 Oct;34(10):1309-16.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

12) Menke A, Sämann P, Kloiber S, Czamara D, Lucae S, Hennings J, Heck A, Kohli MA, Czisch M, Müller-Myhsok B, Holsboer F, Binder EB
Polymorphisms within the metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 gene are associated with depression phenotypes.
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Apr;37(4):565-75.
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13) Dubrovina NI, Zinov'eva DV
[Interaction of N-methyl-D-aspartate and Dopamine D1 receptors in modulation of passive avoidance extinction at mice with depressive-like state].
Ross Fiziol Zh Im I M Sechenova. 2011 Jul;97(7):700-7.
The effect of activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (D-cycloserine) and dopamine D1 (SKF 38393) receptors on learning and extinction of the passive avoidance response in mice under normal conditions and after formation of "behavioural despair" is studied. The data on ineffectiveness of D-cycloserine and SKF 38393 on training a conditional reflex were obtained. In mice with the normal state, SKF 38393 did not alter the dynamics of extinction, and D-cycloserine facilitated a more rapid decline in retrieval of memory trace when testing without penalty. On exposure to D-cycloserine + SKF 38393 injection, dynamics of extinction was similar to that under the action of D-cycloserine. In mice with the reaction of "behavioral despair", D-cycloserine and SKF 38393 reduced the deficit of the passive avoidance extinction typical for "depressed" animals without drugs. With simultaneous activation of NMDA and D1 receptors we observed acceleration of the extinction start and development of complete extinction of the memory trace about pain impact as compared with single injections of D-cycloserine and SKF 38393. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

14) Järnum H, Eskildsen SF, Steffensen EG, Lundbye-Christensen S, Simonsen CW, Thomsen IS, Fründ ET, Théberge J, Larsson EM
Longitudinal MRI study of cortical thickness, perfusion, and metabolite levels in major depressive disorder.
Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2011 Dec;124(6):435-46.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

15) Steiner J, Walter M, Gos T, Guillemin GJ, Bernstein HG, Sarnyai Z, Mawrin C, Brisch R, Bielau H, Meyer zu Schwabedissen L, Bogerts B, Myint AM
Severe depression is associated with increased microglial quinolinic acid in subregions of the anterior cingulate gyrus: evidence for an immune-modulated glutamatergic neurotransmission?
J Neuroinflammation. 2011;8:94.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

16) Rowland LM
Who is resilient to depression? Multimodal imaging of the hippocampus in preclinical chronic mild stress model may provide clues.
Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Sep 1;70(5):406-7.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

17) Hamilton SP
A new lead from genetic studies in depressed siblings: assessing studies of chromosome 3.
Am J Psychiatry. 2011 Aug;168(8):783-9.
Studies by Breen et al. and Pergadia et al. find evidence for genetic linkage between major depressive disorder and the same region on chromosome 3. The linked region contains the gene GRM7, which encodes a protein for the metabotropic glutamate receptor 7 (mGluR7). Both studies used affected sibling pairs, and neither was able to replicate its finding using association studies in individuals from larger population-based studies. Other family-based studies have also failed to find a signal in this region. Furthermore, there are some differences in how the phenotype was classified, with Breen et al. finding evidence only in the most severely affected patients. Nonetheless, the finding is not without other substantive support. A meta-analysis of 3,957 case subjects with major depressive disorder and 3,428 control subjects from the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D), Genetics of Recurrent Early-onset Depression (GenRED), and the Genetic Association Information Network-MDD (GAIN-MDD) data sets demonstrated a region of association for major depressive disorder within GRM7. Thus, the significance of this finding remains uncertain, although it points to a gene that might hold significant promise for further developments in studying the pathophysiology and treatment of major depressive disorder. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

18) Delgado y Palacios R, Campo A, Henningsen K, Verhoye M, Poot D, Dijkstra J, Van Audekerke J, Benveniste H, Sijbers J, Wiborg O, Van der Linden A
Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy reveal differential hippocampal changes in anhedonic and resilient subtypes of the chronic mild stress rat model.
Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Sep 1;70(5):449-57.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

19) Drago A, Crisafulli C, Sidoti A, Serretti A
The molecular interaction between the glutamatergic, noradrenergic, dopaminergic and serotoninergic systems informs a detailed genetic perspective on depressive phenotypes.
Prog Neurobiol. 2011 Sep 1;94(4):418-60.
The glutamatergic pathway has been consistently involved in the physiopathology of depressive disorder. However a complete dissection and integration of its role in the context of other known mechanisms is lacking. We summarized and integrated the evidence of various levels of interaction between glutamatergic and monoaminergic pathways (see videos). We identified six molecular pathways, some of which with specific regional distribution within the brain. From the six pathways we identified the key proteins and their coding genes, we then provided a detailed list of possible candidates with practical suggestions for association studies planning. [PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]

20) Maes M, Galecki P, Verkerk R, Rief W
Somatization, but not depression, is characterized by disorders in the tryptophan catabolite (TRYCAT) pathway, indicating increased indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase and lowered kynurenine aminotransferase activity.
Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2011;32(3):264-73.
[PubMed Citation] [Order full text from Infotrieve]