Research on potential biomarker correlates for suicidal behavior: A review

Asia Pac Psychiatry. 2017 Dec;9(4). doi: 10.1111/appy.12291. Epub 2017 Jun 21.


Suicide is a world health priority. Studies over the last few decades have revealed the complexity underlying the neurobiological mechanisms of suicide. Researchers have found dysregulations in the serotonergic system, the stress system, neural plasticity, lipid metabolism, and cell signaling pathways in relation to suicidal behaviors. These findings have provided more insight into the final path leading to suicide, at which medical intervention should be applied to prevent the action. However, because these molecular mechanisms have been implicated in both depression and suicide, the specificity of the mechanisms has been obscured. In this review, we summarize the main findings of studies on molecular mechanisms of suicidal behavior from the last 2 decades, with particular emphasis on the potential, independent role of each mechanism that is not contingent upon an underlying psychopathology, such as depression. The act of suicide is multifactorial; no single molecular mechanism is sufficient to fully account for the act. Knowledge of the reciprocal interactions among these molecular mechanisms and studying them in the context of brain circuitry by using neuroimaging techniques will provide a better understanding of the neurobiology of suicide.

Keywords: biomarker; depression; suicidal attempt; suicidal behavior; suicide.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Suicide, Attempted*


  • Biomarkers