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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Feb;16(1):69-82. doi: 10.1017/S1461145712000016. Epub 2012 Feb 17.

Altered expression of synapse and glutamate related genes in post-mortem hippocampus of depressed subjects.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06508, USA.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been linked to changes in function and activity of the hippocampus, one of the central limbic regions involved in regulation of emotions and mood. The exact cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying hippocampal plasticity in response to stress are yet to be fully characterized. In this study, we examined the genetic profile of micro-dissected subfields of post-mortem hippocampus from subjects diagnosed with MDD and comparison subjects matched for sex, race and age. Gene expression profiles of the dentate gyrus and CA1 were assessed by 48K human HEEBO whole genome microarrays and a subgroup of identified genes was confirmed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Pathway analysis revealed altered expression of several gene families, including cytoskeletal proteins involved in rearrangement of neuronal processes. Based on this and evidence of hippocampal neuronal atrophy in MDD, we focused on the expression of cytoskeletal, synaptic and glutamate receptor genes. Our findings demonstrate significant dysregulation of synaptic function/structure related genes SNAP25, DLG2 (SAP93), and MAP1A, and 2-amino-3-(5-methyl-3-oxo-1,2-oxazol-4-yl)propanoic acid receptor subunit genes GLUR1 and GLUR3. Several of these human target genes were similarly dysregulated in a rat model of chronic unpredictable stress and the effects reversed by antidepressant treatment. Together, these studies provide new evidence that disruption of synaptic and glutamatergic signalling pathways contribute to the pathophysiology underlying MDD and provide interesting targets for novel therapeutic interventions.

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