Glutamate and depression: Reflecting a deepening knowledge of the gut and brain effects of a ubiquitous molecule

World J Psychiatry. 2021 Jul 19;11(7):297-315. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v11.i7.297.


The versatility of glutamate as the brain's foremost excitatory neurotransmitter and modulator of neurotransmission and function is considered common knowledge. Years of research have continued to uncover glutamate's effects and roles in several neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression. It had been considered that a deeper understanding of the roles of glutamate in depression might open a new door to understanding the pathological basis of the disorder, improve the approach to patient management, and lead to the development of newer drugs that may benefit more patients. This review examines our current understanding of the roles of endogenous and exogenous sources of glutamate and the glutamatergic system in the aetiology, progression and management of depression. It also examines the relationships that link the gut-brain axis, glutamate and depression; as it emphasizes how the gut-brain axis could impact depression pathogenesis and management via changes in glutamate homeostasis. Finally, we consider what the likely future of glutamate-based therapies and glutamate-based therapeutic manipulations in depression are, and if with them, we are now on the final chapter of understanding the neurochemical milieu of depressive disorders.

Keywords: Brain; Gut microbiome; Mental health; Mood disorders; Neurotransmitters.

Publication types

  • Review