Neurotransmitter receptor-mediated activation of G-proteins in brains of suicide victims with mood disorders: selective supersensitivity of alpha(2A)-adrenoceptors

Mol Psychiatry. 2002;7(7):755-67. doi: 10.1038/


Abnormalities in the density of neuroreceptors that regulate norepinephrine and serotonin release have been repeatedly reported in brains of suicide victims with mood disorders. Recently, the modulation of the [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding to G-proteins has been introduced as a suitable measure of receptor activity in postmortem human brain. The present study sought to evaluate the function of several G-protein coupled receptors in postmortem brain of suicide victims with mood disorders. Concentration-response curves of the [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding stimulation by selective agonists of alpha(2)-adrenoceptors, 5-HT(1A) serotonin, mu-opioid, GABA(B), and cholinergic muscarinic receptors were performed in frontal cortical membranes from 28 suicide victims with major depression or bipolar disorder and 28 subjects who were matched for gender, age and postmortem delay. The receptor-independent [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding stimulation by mastoparan and the G-protein density were also examined. The alpha(2A)-adrenoceptor-mediated stimulation of [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding with the agonist UK14304 displayed a 4.6-fold greater sensitivity in suicide victims than in controls, without changes in the maximal stimulation. No significant differences were found in parameters of 5-HT(1A) serotonin receptor and other receptor-mediated [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding stimulations. The receptor-independent activation of G-proteins was similar in both groups. Immunoreactive densities of G(alphai1/2)-, G(alphai3)-, G(alphao)-, and G(alphas)-proteins did not differ between suicide victims and controls. In conclusion, alpha(2A)-adrenoceptor sensitivity is increased in the frontal cortex of suicide victims with mood disorders. This receptor supersensitivity is not related to an increased amount or enhanced intrinsic activity of G-proteins. The new finding provides functional support to the involvement of alpha(2)-adrenoceptors in the pathogenesis of mood disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gi-Go / metabolism*
  • Guanosine 5'-O-(3-Thiotriphosphate) / metabolism
  • Guanosine 5'-O-(3-Thiotriphosphate) / pharmacology
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mood Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mood Disorders / metabolism*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1
  • Suicide*
  • Sulfur Radioisotopes
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1
  • Sulfur Radioisotopes
  • Tubulin
  • Guanosine 5'-O-(3-Thiotriphosphate)
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, Gi-Go
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins