Objective: Suicide, a major cause of death worldwide, has distinct biological underpinnings. The authors review and synthesize the research literature on biomarkers of suicide, with the aim of using the findings of these studies to develop a coherent model for the biological diathesis for suicide.
Method: The authors examined studies covering a large range of neurobiological systems implicated in suicide. They provide succinct descriptions of each system to provide a context for interpreting the meaning of findings in suicide.
Results: Several lines of evidence implicate dysregulation in stress response systems, especially the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, as a diathesis for suicide. Additional findings related to neuroinflammatory indices, glutamatergic function, and neuronal plasticity at the cellular and circuitry level may reflect downstream effects of such dysregulation. Whether serotonergic abnormalities observed in individuals who have died by suicide are independent of stress response abnormalities is an unresolved question.
Conclusions: The most compelling biomarkers for suicide are linked to altered stress responses and their downstream effects, and to abnormalities in the serotonergic system. Studying these systems in parallel and in the same populations may elucidate the role of each and their interplay, possibly leading to identification of new treatment targets and biological predictors.