Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2015 Oct;69(10):597-608. doi: 10.1111/pcn.12299. Epub 2015 May 13.
Biochemical markers subtyping major depressive disorder.
The pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD) remains elusive, and there is no established biochemical marker used in the daily clinical setting. This situation may result in part from the heterogeneity of MDD, which might include heterogeneous subgroups with different biological mechanisms. In this review, we discuss three promising biological systems/markers to potentially subtype MDD: the dopamine system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and chronic inflammatory markers. Several lines of evidence suggest that a facet of MDD is a dopamine agonist-responsive subtype. Focusing on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, depressive spectrum disorders show hypercortisolism to hypocortisolism, which could be detected by hormonal challenge tests, such as the dexamethasone/corticotrophin-releasing hormone test. Finally, accumulating evidence suggests that at least some MDD patients show characteristics similar to those of chronic inflammatory diseases, including neuroinflammatory markers and reduced tryptophan due to the increased activation of the tryptophan-kynurenine pathway. Future studies should examine the inter-relations between these systems/markers to subtype and integrate the pathophysiology of MDD.