Gene expression of GABA and glutamate pathway markers in the prefrontal cortex of non-suicidal elderly depressed patients

J Affect Disord. 2012 May;138(3):494-502. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.01.013. Epub 2012 Feb 21.


Background: The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is presumed to be involved in the pathogenesis of depression.

Methods: We determined the gene expression of 32 markers of the pathways of the two main neurotransmitters of the PFC, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), by real-time quantitative PCR in human postmortem anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) in elderly non-suicidal patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) or bipolar disorder (BD).

Results: We found the transcript levels of GABA(A) receptor beta 2 (GABRB2) and post-synaptic density-95 (PSD-95) to be significantly decreased in the ACC in mood disorder. DLPFC mRNA expression of all the detected genes in the mood disorder group did not differ significantly from that of the non-psychiatric controls.

Limitations: Several inherent and potentially confounding factors of a postmortem study, such as medication and cause of death, did not seem to affect the conclusions. The group size was relatively small but well documented, both clinically and neuropathologically.

Conclusions: The observed alterations in the GABAergic and glutamatergic pathways indicate a diminished activity. These alterations were only present in the ACC and not in the DLPFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Glutamic Acid / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / genetics*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid