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Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2007 May;29 Suppl 1:S13-8.

[Depression and stress: is there an endophenotype?].

[Article in Portuguese]

Author information

  • 1Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil, and Programa de Pesquisas em Transtornos do Humor, Hospital Butler, USA.



To review the new findings about stress, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and depression trying to explain a possible endophenotype prone to depression.


Nonsystematic review of the literature based on the endophenotype hypothesis.


Depression is linked to hypercortisolemia in many patients, but not all patients present these hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction. The dexamethasone suppression test is not the most accurate test to measure the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, and its use in the first studies published probably jeopardized the results. Hypercortisolemia frequently occurs in patients with severe depression, melancholic, either psychotic or nonpsychotic type; it is linked to the presence of a polymorphism in the promoter of the serotonin transporter gene, with a history of childhood abuse or neglect, or other significant stressful experiences like the loss of a parent during childhood and temperament leading to alterations in the response to stress.


The alterations of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis depend on many factors like severity and type of depression, genotype, history of exposure to stress, temperament, and probably resilience. All these factors together result in an endophenotype thought to be prone to depression.

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