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Neuroscience. 2008 Apr 9;152(4):1015-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.12.050. Epub 2008 Jan 18.

Gender-related urocortin 1 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in the adult human midbrain of suicide victims with major depression.

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  • 1Cellular Animal Physiology, Faculty of Science, EURON European Graduate School of Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


In postmortem brains of patients with major depression, the expression of corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) is enhanced and that of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) decreased. In mice over-expressing neuronal CRF (an animal model for depression) the expression of urocortin 1 (Ucn1) in the non-preganglionic Edinger-Westphal nucleus (npEW) is strongly down-regulated. Therefore, we hypothesized that an altered activity of Ucn1 neurons in the npEW would contribute to the pathogenesis of major depression. To test this hypothesis we measured Ucn1 mRNA and BDNF mRNA levels in the npEW of seven male and four female, drug-free suicide victims with major depression, and compared the data with those obtained from 10 male and seven female individuals without neurological and psychiatric disorders (controls). We show that compared with controls, the Ucn1-mRNA level in npEW neurons is about 9.12 times higher in male but unchanged in female suicide victims. Furthermore, BDNF mRNA expression in microdissections of npEW was 3.36 times lower in male suicide victims, but 5.27 times higher in female victims, compared with controls. Our data also show that male suicide victims had almost 11.47 times more Ucn1 and 4.26 times less BDNF mRNA in the npEW than female suicide victims. We discuss the significance of these data for npEW Ucn1 and BDNF, and propose that altered expressions of Ucn1 and BDNF in the npEW contribute to the pathogenesis of major depression and/or suicidality in a gender-specific manner.

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