Recognizing depression as an inflammatory disease: The search for endotypes

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2024 Jun 3. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00246.2024. Online ahead of print.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects millions of individuals worldwide, leading to considerable social and economic costs. Despite advancements in pharmacological treatments, achieving remission remains a key challenge, with a substantial number of patients showing resistance to existing therapies. This resistance is often associated with elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting a connection between inflammation, MDD pathophysiology, and treatment efficacy. The observation of increased immune activation in about a quarter of MDD patients resulted in the distinction of inflammatory and non-inflammatory endotypes. While anti-inflammatory treatments show promise in alleviating depression-like symptoms, responses are heterogeneous, thus highlighting the importance of identifying distinct inflammatory endotypes to tailor effective therapeutic strategies. The intestinal microbiome emerges as a crucial modulator of mental health, mediating its effects partially through different immune pathways. Microbiota-derived short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) significantly impact innate and adaptive immune cells, regulating their differentiation, function, and cellular response. Furthermore, gut-educated immune cells reach the border regions of the central nervous system (CNS), regulating glial cell functions. While the CNS modulates immune responses via efferent parts of the vagus nerve, afferent tracts concurrently transport information on peripheral inflammation back to the brain. This bidirectional communication is particularly relevant in depression, allowing for therapeutic stimulation of the vagus nerve in the context of inflammatory depression endotypes. In this review, we explore the intricate relationship between inflammation and depression, discuss how inflammatory signals are translated into depressive-like symptoms, and highlight immune-modulating therapeutic avenues.

PMID:38826138 | DOI:10.1152/ajpcell.00246.2024