Immune suppression and immune activation in depression

Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Feb;25(2):221-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.10.008. Epub 2010 Oct 16.

Abstract

Depression has been characterized as a disorder of both immune suppression and immune activation. Markers of impaired cellular immunity (decreased natural killer cell cytotoxicity) and inflammation (elevated IL-6, TNFα, and CRP) have been associated with depression. These immunological markers have been associated with other medical illnesses, suggesting that immune dysregulation may be a central feature common to both depression and to its frequent medical comorbidities. Yet the significant associations of findings of both immune suppression and immune activation with depression raise questions concerning the relationship between these two classes of immunological observations. Depressed populations are heterogeneous groups, and there may be differences in the immune profiles of populations that are more narrowly defined in terms of symptom profile and/or demographic features. There have been few reports concurrently investigating markers of immune suppression and immune activation in the same depressed individuals. An emerging pre-clinical literature suggests that chronic inflammation may directly contribute to the pathophysiology of immune suppression in the context of illnesses such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. This literature provides us with specific immunoregulatory mechanisms mediating these relationships that could also explain differences in immune disturbances between subsets of depressed individuals We propose a research agenda emphasizing the assessment of these immunoregulatory mechanisms in large samples of depressed subjects as a means to define the relationships among immune findings (suppression and/or activation) within the same depressed individuals and to characterize subsets of depressed subjects based on shared immune profiles. Such a program of research, building on and integrating our knowledge of the psychoneuroimmunology of depression, could lead to innovation in the assessment and treatment of depression and its medical comorbidities.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder / immunology*
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / physiopathology*
  • Immune Tolerance* / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology

Substances

  • Cytokines