Ligands and receptors of the TNF superfamily are decreased in major depression and during early antidepressant therapy

Frank M. Schmidt*, Jenny Koch, Claudia Nowak, Lesca M. Holdt, Daniel Teupser, Ulrich Hegerl, Hubertus Himmerich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: The up-regulation of pro-inflammatory agents, amongst them tumor necrosis factor (TNF), may represent low-grade inflammation in major depression. To further elucidate inflammatory mechanisms related to TNF in depression, the aim of the current study was to investigate the involvement of ligands and receptors of the TNF/TNF-receptor-superfamily yet un- or little explored in major depression. 

Methods: Serum levels of ligands (TNF, TNF-related weak inducer of apoptosis [TWEAK], B-cell activating factor [BAFF], tumor necrosis factor superfamily member 14 [TNFSF14; LIGHT], A proliferation-inducing ligand [APRIL]) and receptor molecules (TNF receptor superfamily member 8 [TNFRSF8; sCD30], soluble TNF receptor type 1 [sTNFR1] and type 2 [sTNFR2]) of the TNF/TNF-receptor-superfamily were measured in 50 unmedicated patients suffering from major depression and 48 healthy controls and were reassessed in 37 of the depressed patients two weeks after the initiation of antidepressive treatment. 

Results: In comparison to the healthy controls, the interrelated serum levels of TWEAK, BAFF, TNFSF8, sTNFR1 and sTNFR2 were reduced both in the unmedicated and medicated depressed patients. Serum levels of BAFF and TNF significantly increased during the initiation of antidepressive treatment. In the combined sample of unmedicated depressed and healthy controls, but not the separate groups, scores of the BDI-II inversely correlated with levels of TWEAK, BAFF, sTNFR1, sTNFR2 and TNFSF8. 

Conclusion: The current findings give evidence for a role of the TNF/TNF-receptor-superfamily in the pathophysiology of major depression that may involve reduced tissue regeneration and neurogenesis rather than an acceleration of pro-inflammatory pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-121
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of psychiatric research
Issue number0
Early online date24 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation hypothesis
  • Major depression
  • TNF superfamily


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