Patterns of gene expression in the limbic system of suicides with and without major depression

Mol Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;12(7):640-55. doi: 10.1038/ Epub 2007 Mar 13.


The limbic system has consistently been associated with the control of emotions and with mood disorders. The goal of this study was to identify new molecular targets associated with suicide and with major depression using oligonucleotide microarrays in the limbic system (amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate gryus (BA24) and posterior cingulate gyrus (BA29)). A total of 39 subjects were included in this study. They were all male subjects and comprised 26 suicides (depressed suicides=18, non depressed suicides=8) and 13 matched controls. Brain gene expression analysis was carried out on human brain samples using the Affymetrix HG U133 chip set. Differential expression in each of the limbic regions showed group-specific patterns of expression, supporting particular neurobiological mechanisms implicated in suicide and depression. Confirmation of genes selected based on their significance and the interest of their function with reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction showed consistently correlated signals with the results obtained in the microarray analysis. Gene ontology analysis with differentially expressed genes revealed an overrepresentation of transcription and metabolism-related genes in the hippocampus and amygdala, whereas differentially expressed genes in BA24 and BA29 were more generally related to RNA-binding, regulation of enzymatic activity and protein metabolism. Limbic expression patterns were most extensively altered in the hippocampus, where processes related to major depression were associated with altered expression of factors involved with transcription and cellular metabolism. Additionally, our results confirm previous evidence pointing to global alteration of gabaergic neurotransmission in suicide and major depression, offering new avenues in the study and possibly treatment of such complex disorders. Overall, these data suggest that specific patterns of expression in the limbic system contribute to the etiology of depression and suicidal behaviors and highlight the role of the hippocampus in major depression.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Male
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Suicide*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / genetics
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid