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Tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity in the locus coeruleus is reduced in depressed non-suicidal patients but normal in depressed suicide patients.

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1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Magdeburg, Leipziger Strasse 44, D-39120 Magdeburg, Germany. Bruno.Baugmann@Medizin.Uni-Magdeburg.DE

Abstract

Noradrenergic neurons of the locus coeruleus (LC) have been implicated in the neurobiology of depression and suicidal behavior. The current postmortem study determined numbers of noradrenergic neurons by immunostaining the synthesizing enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase in the LC of 12 non-elderly depressed patients with a mood disorder as compared to 12 age- and sex-matched normal controls. Six patients were suicide victims, the other six patients died of natural causes. Non-suicidal patients had fewer neurons immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH-ir) than suicide victims or controls. No difference appeared between the number of TH-ir neurons in suicide patients and controls. Numbers of pigmented LC neurons were equal in patients and controls. The differences of TH-immunoreactivity could neither be attributed to drug influences nor to polarity of depressive disorder (i.e., unipolar/bipolar). Numbers of TH-ir neurons correlated positively with mean doses of tri- or tetracyclic antidepressants. Results of this study suggest a presynaptic noradrenergic deficit of the LC in depressed non-suicidal patients. Indirect evidence is provided that suicide is not related to decreased noradrenergic function and that traditional antidepressants may enhance noradrenergic activity of the LC in depressed patients.

PMID:
10449597
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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