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Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Mar 15;55(6):570-7.

Amygdala cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element binding protein phosphorylation in patients with mood disorders: effects of diagnosis, suicide, and drug treatment.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



Signal transduction abnormalities have been identified in patients with bipolar (BD) and major depressive (MDD) disorders and are targets for lithium and antidepressant drugs. A key downstream target for signal transduction pathways is the transcription factor cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) response element binding protein (CREB). Therefore, we measured the levels of phosphorylated CREB (pCREB) in the amygdala, a region critical to emotional processing and important in the pathophysiology of both BD and MDD.


Human postmortem amygdala sections were generously provided by the Stanley Foundation Neuropathology Consortium. Samples consisted of subjects with MDD, BD, schizophrenia (SCZ), and nonpsychiatric-nonneurologic comparison subjects (n = 15 per group). Levels of pCREB were measured by immunohistochemistry, relative to total cell number.


There were no differences between diagnostic groups--control subjects and subjects with BD, MDD, or SCZ--but increased numbers of pCREB stained cells were found in several amygdalar nuclei in subjects who had died by suicide. In contrast, patients treated with lithium at the time of death had significantly lower pCREB levels in the same region.


These results suggest that CREB activity may be an important factor in the neurobiology of suicide and the well-documented antisuicidal effect of lithium.

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