J Psychiatr Res. 2018 Jan;96:23-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.09.014. Epub 2017 Sep 19.
Plasma amino acid profile in major depressive disorder: Analyses in two independent case-control sample sets.
Some amino acids act as neurotransmitters themselves, or are precursors of neurotransmitters. Previous studies reported inconsistent results regarding their changes in blood in major depressive disorder (MDD), which prompted us to examine plasma levels of amino acids and related molecules in two independent case-control sample sets. In total, 511 subjects were recruited. Sample set A consisted of 164 patients with MDD (147 currently depressed [dMDD]; 17 in remission, DSM-IV) and 217 healthy controls. Sample set B consisted of 65 patients (51 dMDD; 14 in remission) and 65 controls. Plasma amino acid levels were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography for set A and liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry for set B. We further analyzed the relationships between plasma amino acid levels and clinical variables. In sample set A, plasma asparagine, histidine+1-methylhistidine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and tyrosine levels were decreased, while plasma glutamate and phosphoethanolamine were elevated in dMDD compared to controls (all P < 0.0005), even after correcting for multiple testing. Plasma leucine levels were associated with "psychic anxiety." In sample set B, glutamate and methionine levels were also altered in the same direction to that in sample set A (both P < 0.05). In the integrative analysis, plasma glutamate and methionine levels were found to be significantly associated with the diagnosis of MDD with small to medium effect sizes (both P < 1.0E-6). In conclusion, several amino acids and related molecules were altered in patients with MDD. Decreased methionine and increased glutamate levels were found consistently in the two sample sets, suggesting their involvement in MDD. Further investigations are warranted on the possible role of amino acids in the pathophysiology of MDD.