Publication date: Feb 10, 2021
Even though major depressive disorder (MDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the most prevalent and incapacitating mental illnesses in the world, their diagnosis still relies solely on the characterization of subjective symptoms (many of which are shared by multiple disorders) self-reported by patients. Thus, the need for objective measures that aid in the detection of and differentiation between psychiatric disorders becomes urgent. In this paper, we explore the potential of neurosteroids and neurotrophic proteins as biomarkers for MDD and PTSD. Circulating levels of the GABAergic neuroactive steroid, allopregnanolone, are diminished in MDD and PTSD patients, which corroborates the finding of depleted neurosteroid levels observed in animal models of these disorders. The neurotrophic protein, brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), is also reduced in the periphery and in the brain of MDD patients and depressed-like animals that express lower neurosteroid levels. Although the role of BDNF in PTSD psychopathology seems less clear and merits more research, we propose a causal link between allopregnanolone levels and BDNF expression that could function as a biomarker axis for the diagnosis of both MDD and PTSD.
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|disease||MESH||major depressive disorder|