Disturbances in acute phase plasma proteins during melancholia: additional evidence for the presence of an inflammatory process during that illness

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1992 Jul;16(4):501-15. doi: 10.1016/0278-5846(92)90056-k.


1. Leukocyte enumeration through flow cytometry has revealed that severe depression may be accompanied by a systemic immune activation, indicative of an inflammatory response. The latter condition allegedly involves an important modification of acute phase plasma protein (APP) equilibrium. 2. In order to elucidate whether the state of severe depression is represented by alterations in APPs, the authors measured: alpha 1 antitrypsin (alpha 1 AT), alpha 2 macroglobulin (alpha 2 M), haptoglobin (Hp), alpha 1 acid glycoprotein (alpha 1 S), transferrin (Tf), complement component 4 (C4) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Interleukin-1-beta (II-1 beta) and interleukin-6 (II-6) circulating levels were determined. 3. Hyperhaptoglobinemia and hypotransferrinemia are hallmarks for major depression and depression per se, respectively. The disorders in Hp and Tf circulating levels are highly sensitive to (83%) and specific for (100%) melancholia as opposed to the healthy state. 4. Disorders in both APPs are significantly related to the absolute number of blood monocytes. 5. The authors observed a trend towards lower alpha 2M and higher alpha 1S values in severely depressed subjects. Severity of depression was significantly related to Hp and alpha 1S (both positively) and to alpha 2M and Tf (both negatively) values. 6. No significant intercategory differences in C4 could be established, whilst only a few subjects exhibited measurable CRP, II-1 beta and II-6 circulating levels. 7. Our findings may support the hypothesis that depression is accompanied by an inflammatory response.

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Depressive Disorder / blood*
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / blood
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Transferrin / deficiency


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Transferrin