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Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Feb 15;32(2):356-61. Epub 2007 Sep 5.

Differences in cytokines between non-suicidal patients and suicidal patients in major depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, Korea University Ansan Hospital, Ansan City, Gojan Dong, 516, Kyunggi Province, 425-020, South Korea.


Several studies have shown that there is an imbalance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in major depressive disorder (MDD). However, little is known about the role of cytokines in suicide. In the present study, amounts of IL-6, IL-2, IFN-gamma, IL-4, and TGF-beta1 produced by mitogen-stimulated whole blood were measured in 36 MDD patients who had recently attempted suicide, 33 non-suicidal MDD patients, and 40 normal controls. The severity of depression symptoms and suicidal behaviors was evaluated using Hamilton's depression rating scale (HDRS), the Lethality Suicide Attempt Rating Scale (LSARS), and the Risk-Rescue Rating (RRR). Non-suicidal MDD patients had significantly higher IL-6 production than suicidal MDD patients and normal controls (p<0.001). Suicidal MDD patients had significantly lower IL-2 compared with non-suicidal patients and normal controls (p<0.001). Both MDD groups, with or without attempted suicide, had significantly lower IFN-gamma and IL-4 and higher TGF-beta1 production. HDRS scores had significant positive correlations with IL-6, IFN-gamma, and the Th1/Th2 ratio and significant negative correlations with IL-4 in non-suicidal depression patients (p<0.005); however, these correlations did not hold true for suicidal patients. Suicidal MDD patients had no significant correlations between the LSARS or RRR scores and cytokine release. Our findings suggest that the immune response has distinct differences between non-suicidal patients and suicidal patients. Non-suicidal MDD may be associated with increased IL-6 production and a Th1/Th2 imbalance with a shift to Th1, while suicidal MDD may be associated with decreased IL-2.

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