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Alterations in pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide in major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and comorbid depression in Alzheimer’s disease in the human hypothalamus and prefrontal cortex

Research group Swaab
Publication year 2023
Published in Psychological Medicine
Authors Zala Slabe, R.A. Balesar, R.W.H. Verwer, J.J. van Heerikhuize, Gwyneth A Pechler, Maja Zorović, Witte J G Hoogendijk, D.F. Swaab

BACKGROUND: Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide (PACAP) is involved in the stress response and may play a key role in mood disorders, but no information is available on PACAP for the human brain in relation to mood disorders.

METHODS: PACAP-peptide levels were determined in a major stress-response site, the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), of people with major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar disorder (BD) and of a unique cohort of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients with and without depression, all with matched controls. The expression of PACAP-(Adcyap1mRNA) and PACAP-receptors was determined in the MDD and BD patients by qPCR in presumed target sites of PACAP in stress-related disorders, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).

RESULTS: PACAP cell bodies and/or fibres were localised throughout the hypothalamus with differences between immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridisation. In the controls, PACAP-immunoreactivity-(ir) in the PVN was higher in women than in men. PVN-PACAP-ir was higher in male BD compared to the matched male controls. In all AD patients, the PVN-PACAP-ir was lower compared to the controls, but higher in AD depressed patients compared to those without depression. There was a significant positive correlation between the Cornell depression score and PVN-PACAP-ir in all AD patients combined. In the ACC and DLPFC, alterations in mRNA expression of PACAP and its receptors were associated with mood disorders in a differential way depending on the type of mood disorder, suicide, and psychotic features.

CONCLUSION: The results support the possibility that PACAP plays a role in mood disorder pathophysiology.

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