GABAergic neurons immunoreactive for calcium binding proteins are reduced in the prefrontal cortex in major depression

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 Feb;32(2):471-82. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301234. Epub 2006 Oct 25.


Post-mortem morphometric studies report reductions in the average density and size of cortical neurons in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and orbitofrontal cortex (ORB) in major depressive disorder (MDD). The contribution of specific neuronal phenotypes to this general pathology in depression is still unclear. Post-mortem sections from the dlPFC and ORB regions of 14 subjects with MDD and 11 controls were immunostained to visualize calbindin-immunoreactive (CB-IR) and parvalbumin-immunoreactive (PV-IR) presumptive GABAergic neurons. A three-dimensional cell counting probe was used to assess the cell packing density and size of CB-IR neurons in layers II+IIIa and PV-IR neurons in layers III-VI. The density of CB-IR neurons was significantly reduced by 50% in depression in the dlPFC and there was a trend toward reduction in the ORB. The size of CB-IR somata was significantly decreased (18%) in depression in the dlPFC with a trend toward reduction in the ORB. In contrast, there was no difference in the density of PV-IR neurons between the depressed and control groups in the dlPFC. The size of PV-IR neuronal soma was unchanged in depressed compared to control subjects in either dlPFC or ORB. In depression, subpopulations of GABAergic neurons may be affected differently in dlPFC and ORB. A significant reduction in the density and size of GABAergic interneurons immunoreactive for calcium binding proteins was found predominantly in the dlPFC region. These cellular changes are consistent with recent neuroimaging studies revealing a reduction in the cortical levels of GABA in depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Calbindins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / pathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology
  • Down-Regulation / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parvalbumins / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Calbindins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Parvalbumins
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid