Purine metabolism is dysregulated in patients with major depressive disorder

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 Aug:70:25-32. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.04.017. Epub 2016 Apr 30.


Introduction: The purine cycle and altered purinergic signaling have been suggested to play a role in major depressive disorder (MDD). Nevertheless, data on this topic are scarce. Based on previous studies, we hypothesized that compared with non-depressed controls, MDD patients have distinct purine metabolite profiles.

Methods: The samples comprised 99 MDD patients and 253 non-depressed controls, aged 20-71 years. Background data were collected with questionnaires. Fasting serum samples were analyzed using ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS) to determine seven purine cycle metabolites belonging to the purine cycle. We investigated the levels of these metabolites in three settings: (1) MDD patients vs. non-depressed controls and (2) remitted vs. non-remitted MDD patients, and also (3) within-group changes in metabolite levels during the follow-up period.

Results: In logistic regression adjusted for age, gender, smoking, alcohol use, physical exercise, glycosylated hemoglobin, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, lower levels of inosine (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.82-0.97) and guanosine (OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.17-0.59), and higher levels of xanthine (OR 2.21, 95% CI 1.30-3.75) were associated with MDD vs. the non-depressed group. Levels of several metabolites changed significantly during the follow-up period in the MDD group, but there were no differences between remitted and non-remitted groups.

Conclusions: We observed altered purine metabolism in MDD patients compared with non-depressed controls. Furthermore, our observations suggest that circulating xanthine may accumulate in MDD patients.

Keywords: Guanosine; Inosine; Major depressive disorder; Metabolomics; Purine metabolism; Xanthine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Guanosine / blood
  • Humans
  • Inosine / blood
  • Male
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Purines / blood*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Xanthine / blood


  • Purines
  • Guanosine
  • Xanthine
  • Inosine