In this study, we used new technology to investigate whether a coherent pattern of enhanced expression of inflammatory and other immune activation genes in circulating monocytes is found in patients with major depression. Since a high inflammatory state of monocytes might be related to glucocorticoid resistance, we also included the genes for the two isoforms of the glucocorticoid receptor. For this study, we aimed at finding a similar coherent pattern of inflammatory and immune activation genes in monocytes of patients with MDD and recruited 47 medication-free melancholic MDD inpatients and 42 healthy controls. A quantitative-polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) monocyte gene expression analysis was performed using a panel of inflammatory-related genes previously identified as abnormally regulated in mood disorder patients. Selected serum cytokines/ chemokines were assessed using a cytometric bead array. Depressive symptoms were analysed using Hamilton depression scores (HAMD). Thirty-four of the 47 monocyte inflammatory-related genes were significantly upregulated and 2 were significantly downregulated as compared to controls, the latter including the gene for the active GRa in particular in those with a high HAMD score. The reduced GRa expression correlated strongly to the upregulation of the inflammatory genes in monocytes. Serum levels of IL6, IL8, CCL2 and VEGF were significantly increased in patients compared to controls. Our data show the deregulation of two interrelated homoeostatic systems, that is, the immune system and the glucocorticoid system, co-occurring in major depression.

Biomarkers, Chronic stress, Genomics, Immunology, Neuroendocrinology,
Translational Psychiatry
This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id fp7/222963 - Early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders targetting the activated inflammatory response system (MOODINFLAME)
Department of Psychiatry

Carvalho, L.A, Bergink, V, Sumaski, L, Wijkhuijs, J.M, Hoogendijk, W.J.G, Birkenhäger, T.K, & Drexhage, H.A. (2014). Inflammatory activation is associated with a reduced glucocorticoid receptor alpha/beta expression ratio in monocytes of inpatients with melancholic major depressive disorder. Translational Psychiatry, 4. doi:10.1038/tp.2013.118