Widespread Decrease of Cerebral Vimentin-Immunoreactive Astrocytes in Depressed Suicides

Front Psychiatry. 2021 Feb 4;12:640963. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.640963. eCollection 2021.


Post-mortem investigations have implicated cerebral astrocytes immunoreactive (-IR) for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in the etiopathology of depression and suicide. However, it remains unclear whether astrocytic subpopulations IR for other astrocytic markers are similarly affected. Astrocytes IR to vimentin (VIM) display different regional densities than GFAP-IR astrocytes in the healthy brain, and so may be differently altered in depression and suicide. To investigate this, we compared the densities of GFAP-IR astrocytes and VIM-IR astrocytes in post-mortem brain samples from depressed suicides and matched non-psychiatric controls in three brain regions (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, dorsal caudate nucleus and mediodorsal thalamus). A quantitative comparison of the fine morphology of VIM-IR astrocytes was also performed in the same regions and subjects. Finally, given the close association between astrocytes and blood vessels, we also assessed densities of CD31-IR blood vessels. Like for GFAP-IR astrocytes, VIM-IR astrocyte densities were found to be globally reduced in depressed suicides relative to controls. By contrast, CD31-IR blood vessel density and VIM-IR astrocyte morphometric features in these regions were similar between groups, except in prefrontal white matter, in which vascularization was increased and astrocytes displayed fewer primary processes. By revealing a widespread reduction of cerebral VIM-IR astrocytes in cases vs. controls, these findings further implicate astrocytic dysfunctions in depression and suicide.

Keywords: GFAP; astrocyte; depression; human; post-mortem; suicide; vimentin.