Although depression is known to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disorders, the mechanisms behind this connection are not well understood. However, the reduction in the number of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) in patients with cardiovascular risk factors has led us to hypothesize that depression influences the number of EPCs. EPCs labeled with CD34, CD133 and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR2) antibodies were counted by flow cytometry in the peripheral blood (PB) of 33 patients with a current episode of major depression and of 16 control subjects. Mature (CD34+VEGFR2+) and immature (CD133+ VEGFR2+) EPC counts were decreased in patients (vs controls; P<0.01 for both comparisons), and there was a significant inverse relationship between EPC levels and the severity of depressive symptoms (P<0.01 for both EPC phenotypes). Additionally, we assayed the plasma levels of VEGF, C-reactive protein (CRP) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and observed significantly elevated TNF-α concentrations in patients (vs controls; P<0.05) and, moreover, a significant inverse correlation between TNF-α and EPC levels (P<0.05). Moreover, by means of a quantitative RT-PCR approach, we measured CD34, CD133 and VEGFR2 mRNA levels of PB samples and found a net trend toward a decrease in all the investigated EPC-specific mRNA levels in patients as compared with controls. However, statistical significance was reached only for VEGFR2 and CD133 levels (P<0.01 for both markers). This is the first paper that demonstrates evidence of decreased numbers of circulating EPCs in patients with a current episode of major depression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience