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Amino Acids. 2006 Oct;31(3):241-50. Epub 2006 May 29.

Corticotropin-releasing factor, vasopressin and receptor systems in depression and anxiety.

Author information

  • Division of Psychiatry Research, University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. martin.keck@puk.zh.ch


Affective disorders tend to be chronic and life-threatening diseases: suicide is estimated to be the cause of death in 10-15% of individuals with major depressive disorders. Major depression is one of the most prevalent and costly brain diseases with up to 20% of the worldwide population suffering from moderate to severe forms of the disease. Only 50% of individuals with depression show full remission in response to currently available antidepressant drug therapies which are based on serendipitous discoveries made in the 1950s. Previously underestimated, other severe depression-associated deleterious health-related effects have increasingly been recognized. Epidemiological studies have provided substantial evidence that patients with depression have a 2-4-fold increased risk both of developing cardiovascular disease and of mortality after experiencing a myocardial infarction. The majority of patients suffering from affective disorders have measurable shifts in their stress hormone regulation as reflected by elevated secretion of central and peripheral stress hormones or by altered hormonal responses to neuroendocrine challenge tests. In recent years, these alterations have increasingly been translated into testable hypotheses addressing the pathogenesis of illness. Refined molecular technologies and the creation of genetically engineered mice have allowed to specifically target individual genes involved in regulation of corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) and vasopressin (AVP) system elements. The cumulative evidence makes a strong case implicating dysfunction of these systems in the etiology and pathogenesis of depression and pathological anxiety. Translation of these advances into novel therapeutic strategies has already been started.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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