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J Neurochem. 1999 Jan;72(1):282-91.

Up-regulation of immunolabeled alpha2A-adrenoceptors, Gi coupling proteins, and regulatory receptor kinases in the prefrontal cortex of depressed suicides.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Switzerland.


Suicide and depression are associated with an increased density of alpha2-adrenoceptors (radioligand receptor binding) in specific regions of the human brain. The function of these inhibitory receptors involves various regulatory proteins (Gi coupling proteins and G protein-coupled receptor kinases, GRKs), which work in concert with the receptors. In this study we quantitated in parallel the levels of immunolabeled alpha2A-adrenoceptors and associated regulatory proteins in brains of suicide and depressed suicide victims. Specimens of the prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 9) were collected from 51 suicide victims and 31 control subjects. Levels of alpha2A-adrenoceptors, Galphai1/2 proteins, and GRK 2/3 were assessed by immunoblotting techniques by using specific polyclonal antisera and the immunoreactive proteins were quantitated by densitometry. Increased levels of alpha2A-adrenoceptors (31-40%), Galphai1/2 proteins (42-63%), and membrane-associated GRK 2/3 (24-32%) were found in the prefrontal cortex of suicide victims and antidepressant-free depressed suicide victims. There were significant correlations between the levels of GRK 2/3 (dependent variable) and those of alpha2A-adrenoceptors and Galphai1/2 proteins (independent variables) in the same brain samples of suicide victims (r = 0.56, p = 0.008) and depressed suicide victims (r = 0.54, p = 0.041). Antemortem antidepressant treatment was associated with a significant reduction in the levels of Galphai1/2 proteins (32%), but with modest decreases in the levels of alpha2A-adrenoceptors (6%) and GRK 2/3 (18%) in brains of depressed suicide victims. The increased levels in concert of alpha2A-adrenoceptors, Galphai1/2 proteins, and GRK 2/3 in brains of depressed suicide victims support the existence of supersensitive alpha2A-adrenoceptors in subjects with major depression.

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