Glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor expression in the human hippocampus in major depressive disorder

Medina A, Seasholtz AF, Sharma V, Burke S, Bunney W Jr, Myers RM, Schatzberg A, Akil H, Watson SJ
J Psychiatr Res. 2013; 47(3):307-14.


Approximately 50% of mood disorder patients exhibit hypercortisolism. Cortisol normally exerts its functions in the CNS via binding to mineralocorticoid receptors (MR) and glucocorticoid receptors (GR). Both MR and GR are highly expressed in human hippocampus and several studies have suggested that alterations in the levels of MR or GR within this region may contribute to the dysregulation in major depressive disorder (MDD). Studies have also shown functional heterogeneity across the hippocampus, with posterior hippocampus preferentially involved in cognitive processes and anterior hippocampus involved in stress, emotion and affect. We therefore hypothesize that GR and MR expression in hippocampus of control and MDD patients may vary not only with disease, but also with regional specificity along the anterior/posterior axis. Student's t-test analysis showed decreased expression of MR in the MDD group compared to controls in the anterior, but not the posterior hippocampus, with no significant changes in GR. Linear regression analysis showed a marked difference in MR:GR correlation between suicide and non-suicide patients in the posterior hippocampus. Our findings are consistent with previous reports of hippocampal corticosteroid receptor dysregulation in mood disorders, but extend those findings by analysis across the anterior/posterior axis of the hippocampus. A decrease in MR in the anterior but not posterior hippocampus of MDD patients emphasizes the important functional role of the anterior hippocampus in neuroendocrine regulation in humans.