Sigma-1 receptor chaperone and brain-derived neurotrophic factor: emerging links between cardiovascular disease and depression

Prog Neurobiol. 2013 Jan;100:15-29. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2012.09.001. Epub 2012 Oct 5.


Epidemiological studies have demonstrated a close relationship between depression and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although it is known that the central nervous system (CNS) contributes to this relationship, the detailed mechanisms involved in this process remain unclear. Recent studies suggest that the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) molecular chaperone sigma-1 receptor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) play a role in the pathophysiology of CVD and depression. Several meta-analysis studies have showed that levels of BDNF in the blood of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) are lower than normal controls, indicating that blood BDNF might be a biomarker for depression. Furthermore, blood levels of BDNF in patients with CVD are also lower than normal controls. A recent study using conditional BDNF knock-out mice in animal models of myocardial infarction highlighted the role of CNS-mediated mechanisms in the cardioprotective effects of BDNF. In addition, a recent study shows that decreased levels of sigma-1 receptor in the mouse brain contribute to the association between heart failure and depression. Moreover, sigma-1 receptor agonists, including the endogenous neurosteroid dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluvoxamine, show potent cardioprotective and antidepressive effects in rodents, via sigma-1 receptor stimulation. Interestingly, agonist activation of sigma-1 receptors increased the secretion of mature BDNF from its precursor proBDNF via chaperone activity in the ER. Given the role of ER stress in the pathophysiology of CVD and MDD, the author will discuss the potential link between sigma-1 receptors and BDNF-TrkB pathway in the pathophysiology of these two diseases. Finally, the author will make a case for potent sigma-1 receptor agonists and TrkB agonists as new potential therapeutic drugs for depressive patients with CVD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / deficiency
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Depression / blood*
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Receptor, trkB / agonists
  • Receptors, sigma / agonists
  • Receptors, sigma / metabolism*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Receptors, sigma
  • sigma-1 receptor
  • Receptor, trkB