Transient depressive relapse induced by catecholamine depletion: potential phenotypic vulnerability marker?
Berman RM, Narasimhan M, Miller HL, Anand A,
Cappiello A, Oren DA, Heninger GR, Charney DS
Connecticut Mental Health Center, Department of Psychiatry,
Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven 06519, USA.
Arch Gen Psychiatry 1999 May; 56(5):395-40


BACKGROUND: Although state-related alterations in catecholamine function have been well-described in depressed subjects, enduring abnormalities have been less reliably identified. In our study, medication-free subjects with fully remitted major depression underwent a paradigm of catecholamine depletion, via use of the tyrosine hydroxylase inhibitor alpha-methylparatyrosine. METHOD: Subjects underwent 2 sets of testing conditions in a double-blind, random-ordered, crossover design, approximately 1 week apart. They underwent active catecholamine depletion (via oral administration of 5 g alpha-methylparatyrosine) or sedation-controlled, sham catecholamine depletion (via oral administration of 250 mg diphenhydramine hydrochloride), during a 2-day observation. Serial mood ratings and blood samples were obtained. RESULTS: Fourteen subjects completed the active testing condition; 13 completed sham testing. Subjects experienced marked, transient increases in core depressive and anxiety symptoms, as demonstrated by a mean 21-point increase on Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores. Furthermore, 10 (71%) of 14 subjects fulfilled relapse criteria during active testing, whereas 1 (8%) of 13 subjects did so during sham testing. The severity of the depressive reaction correlated with baseline plasma cortisol levels (r = 0.59; P =.04). CONCLUSIONS: Euthymic, medication-free subjects with a history of major depression demonstrate significant depressive symptoms when undergoing testing with alpha-methylparatyrosine. This depressive reaction may represent a reliable marker for a history of depression. Further work is needed to clarify the significance of this finding.

Tyrosine hydroxlase
Noradrenaline and mood
Catecholamine depletion
The monoamine hypothesis
Tyrosine, dopamine and depression

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