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Biol Psychiatry. 1994 Mar 1;35(5):295-308.

The relationship of platelet 5-HT2 receptor indices to major depressive disorder, personality traits, and suicidal behavior.

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Laboratory of Psychopharmacology, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY.


Previous research has suggested that major depression and suicidal behavior may be associated with altered serotonin receptor function. In this study, platelet serotonin2 (5-HT2) receptor binding indices were measured in conjunction with serotonin-amplified platelet aggregation, a response mediated by the platelet 5-HT2 receptor complex, in depressed patients and normal controls. The magnitude of serotonin-amplified platelet aggregation was positively correlated with the number of platelet 5-HT2 receptor sites in both groups. Mean values for the receptor binding indices and the receptor-mediated response did not differ significantly between patients and controls, although patients exhibited a wider range of values for each parameter compared with controls. Exploratory analyses were undertaken to determine clinical variables that might contribute to the increased variance in depressed individuals. These analyses failed to reveal a statistically significant relationship between any of the platelet 5-HT2 receptor measures and the subtype or severity of depressive illness, or the presence of comorbid borderline personality disorder. Although the mean number of receptor sites did not differ between patients who had recently attempted suicide and those who had never attempted suicide, a strong positive correlation (p = 0.002) was found between receptor number and the degree of medical damage resulting from the suicidal act. Furthermore, the ratio of the serotonin-amplified platelet aggregation response to platelet 5-HT2 receptor number, an index of the mean responsivity of an individual receptor complex, was lower in suicide attempters versus nonattempters (p = 0.06) and normal controls (p = 0.01). Exploratory analyses also suggested that recent exposure to psychotropic medication may result in a significant increase in platelet 5-HT2 receptor number (p = 0.03). Thus, although the study did not show a consistent alteration in platelet 5-HT2 receptor indices in major depression, the data suggest that specific factors such as suicidality and drug exposure may explain some of the variance in depressed patients.

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