Substance P serum levels are increased
in major depression: preliminary results

Bondy B, Baghai TC, Minov C, Schule C,
Schwarz MJ, Zwanzger P, Rupprecht R, Moller HJ.
Psychiatric Hospital, University of Munich, Munich, Germany
Biol Psychiatry 2003 Mar 15;53(6):538-42


Substance P (SP) is thought to have an impact in the pathophysiology of depression and the mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs. The aim of this study was to analyze the serum SP levels in healthy control subjects and in depressed patients before and after antidepressant treatments.Twenty-three patients with major depression and 33 control subjects participated in the study. Using an enzyme immunoassay, the SP serum levels were determined in patients at baseline (before treatment) and after 2 and 4 weeks of antidepressant therapy. Determinations of SP in control subjects were carried out twice, at baseline and after 4 weeks.The mean baseline SP serum concentration was significantly higher in depressed patients as compared with control subjects (p <.001). Repeated measurements in control subjects showed that SP remains relatively constant over a period of 4 weeks. Although in depressed patients there was no overall change in the mean SP levels between baseline and 4 weeks' treatment, 37% of them exhibited a decrease of SP (15%-50%), which can be correlated to a better drug response than an increase in SP concentration after treatment (p =.001).Our data show that serum SP levels are increased in a proportion of patients with major depression and might thus indicate a subgroup of the disorder in which neuropeptides have a key position. Future studies are needed to clarify whether the observed SP decrease in treatment responders can be attributed to a specific class of drugs.

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