Coexisting dysregulations of both the sympathoadrenal system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis in melancholia

J Neural Transm Gen Sect. 1991;85(3):195-210. doi: 10.1007/BF01244945.


In order to delineate putatively coexisting dysregulations between sympathoadrenal system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis during depression, the authors measured the following: the pre and postdexamethasone (1 mg) 24 hr urine excretion of noradrenaline, dopamine, adrenaline, 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), free cortisol (UFC), and plasma cortisol. Melancholic patients were characterized by a significantly higher excretion of noradrenaline, dopamine and adrenaline, combined with significantly increased UFC, postdexamethasone plasma cortisol, and UFC values. We found significant and positive correlations between UFC on the one hand, and the 24hr urine excretion of noradrenaline, dopamine, and adrenaline, on the other. By the same token, we established significant relationships between the 24 hr urine excretion of those catecholamines and the postdexamethasone UFC and plasma cortisol values. Cortisol nonsuppressors exhibited a significantly higher excretion of noradrenaline, dopamine and adrenaline, as compared with cortisol suppressors. Dexamethasone administration did not have a significant effect on the urinary output of noradrenaline, dopamine, adrenaline or MHPG.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / physiopathology*
  • Adult
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Dopamine / urine
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epinephrine / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine / urine
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*


  • Catecholamines
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol
  • Dexamethasone
  • Dopamine
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine