PloS one

Selective hyper-responsiveness of the interferon system in major depressive disorders and depression induced by interferon therapy.

PMID 22701688


Though an important percentage of patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) undergoing interferon (IFN) therapy develop depressive symptoms, the role of the IFN system in the pathogenesis of depressive disorders is not well understood. 50 patients with HCV infection were treated with standard combination therapy (pegylated IFN-α2a/ribavirin). IFN-induced gene expression was analyzed to identify genes which are differentially regulated in patients with or without IFN-induced depression. For validation, PBMC from 22 psychiatric patients with a severe depressive episode (SDE) and 11 controls were cultivated in vitro with pegylated IFN-α2a and gene expression was analyzed. IFN-induced depression in HCV patients was associated with selective upregulation of 15 genes, including 6 genes that were previously described to be relevant for major depressive disorders or neuronal development. In addition, increased endogenous IFN-production and selective hyper-responsiveness of these genes to IFN stimulation were observed in SDE patients. Our data suggest that selective hyper-responsiveness to exogenous (IFN therapy) or endogenous (depressive disorders) type I IFNs may lead to the development of depressive symptoms. These data could lead to the discovery of novel therapeutic approaches to treat IFN-induced and major depressive disorders.