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J Affect Disord. 1995 Aug 18;34(4):301-9.

Increased plasma concentrations of interleukin-6, soluble interleukin-6, soluble interleukin-2 and transferrin receptor in major depression.

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  • 1University Department of Psychiatry, AZ Stuivenberg, Antwerp, Belgium.


Recently, it was found that major depression may be accompanied by significant changes in cell-mediated and humoral immunity. The purpose of this study was to investigate the plasma concentrations of interleukin (IL)-6, soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R), sIL-2R and transferrin receptor (TfR) in patients with major depression in an acute phase of illness, in remission and during antidepressive treatment. Plasma concentrations of IL-6, sIL-6R, sIL-2R and TfR were significantly higher in major depressed subjects than in healthy controls. In major depressed subjects, but not in normal controls, there were significant positive correlations between the plasma concentrations of IL-6 and sIL-6R, IL-6 and sIL-2R, IL-6 and TfR, and between sIL-2R and TfR. Subchronic treatment with antidepressive drugs, such as fluoxetine or tricyclic antidepressants, did not significantly affect plasma IL-6, sIL-6R, sIL-2R or TfR. The latter did not significantly differ between major depressed patients in an acute phase of illness or in complete clinical remission. It is suggested that: (1) a coordinated and upregulated production of IL-6, sIL-6R, sIL-2R and TfR may constitute a trait marker of major depression; and that (2) an upregulated production of IL-6 may represent a contributing factor to the various immune disorders encountered in major depression and maybe to the pathophysiology or pathogenesis of that illness.

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