This study was carried out to investigate plasma levels of excitatory amino acids, such as glutamate and aspartate, and glutamine, serine, glycine, taurine and histidine in major depression. The plasma amino acids were determined by means of HPLC in 22 normal controls and 25 unmedicated patients with major depression. Major depression was characterized by higher plasma taurine levels than normal controls. Significantly lower plasma glycine values and a higher serine/glycine ratio were observed in the depressed group. No significant differences in glutamine, histidine, serine or aspartate levels could be detected between the study groups. By means of linear discriminant analysis, a highly significant separation between major depressed subjects and normal volunteers was found using glycine, glutamate and taurine as discriminatory variables. No significant relationships between any of the amino acids and severity of depression could be found. The results suggest that major depression is accompanied by perturbations in the serine/glycine ratio, excitatory amino acids, such as glutamate, and inhibitory amino acids, such as taurine.