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J Neurochem. 1994 Jul;63(1):256-65.

Autoradiographic demonstration of increased alpha 2-adrenoceptor agonist binding sites in the hippocampus and frontal cortex of depressed suicide victims.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Cantabria Medical School, Santander, Spain.


To examine directly in the brain the status of alpha 2-adrenoceptors in major depression, the specific binding of the agonist [3H]UK 14304 was measured by quantitative receptor autoradiography in the hippocampus and frontal cortex of suicide victims (n = 17) with a retrospective diagnosis of depression (n = 7) or other psychiatric disorders (n = 10) as well as of matched control subjects (n = 9). In suicide victims, a significant increase in the number of alpha 2-adrenoceptors was found in the CA1 field (40%) and dentate gyrus (20%) of the hippocampus and in the external layers I (33%) and II (31%) of the frontal cortex, compared with that in matched controls. In depressed suicide victims, the increase in alpha 2-adrenoceptors in the CA1 field (57%) was significantly greater (24%, p < 0.05) than that observed in the group of suicide victims with other diagnoses (26%). In the same depressed suicide victims, the increase in cortical alpha 2-adrenoceptors was restricted to layer I (34%) and it was equivalent to that found in layer I (33%) of suicide victims with other diagnoses. The results indicate that suicide is associated with increases in the high-affinity state of brain alpha 2-adrenoceptors adrenoceptors and that there is a pronounced localized increase of this inhibitory receptor in the hippocampus of depressed suicide victims.

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