A novel peripheral biomarker for depression and antidepressant response

In contrast to healthy controls, the heterotrimeric G protein, Gsalpha (Gsα) is ensconced predominantly in lipid rafts in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) resulting in impaired stimulation of adenylyl cyclase. In this small proof-of-concept study, we examined the hypothesis that translocation of Gsα from lipid rafts toward a more facile activation of adenylyl cyclase is a biomarker for clinical response to antidepressants. There were 49 subjects with MDD (HamD17 score ≥15) and 59 healthy controls at the screen visit. The AlphaScreen (PerkinElmer) assay measured both basal activity and prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) stimulation of Gsα-adenylyl cyclase to assess the extent of coupling of Gsα with adenylyl cyclase. At screen, platelet samples obtained from MDD subjects revealed significantly lower PGE1 activation of adenylyl cyclase activity than controls (p = 0.02). Subsequently, 19 consenting MDD subjects completed a 6-week open label antidepressant treatment trial.

The 11 antidepressant responders (HamD17 improvement ≥50% from screen) revealed significant increase in PGE1-stimulated adenylyl cyclase compared to non-responders (p = 0.05) with an effect size of 0.83 for the PGE1/Gsα lipid-raft biomarker. PGE1 stimulation increased by ≥30% from screen assessment in eight responders (72.7%) and two non-responders (25.0%) [Fisher exact = 0.07] with a positive predictive value for response of 80.0%. In this small, pilot study, increased PGE1 stimulated adenylyl cyclase was associated with antidepressant response in MDD subjects.

These data suggest that a simple, high-throughput-capable assay for depression and antidepressant response can be developed. Future studies are needed to evaluate the utility of this biomarker for the treatment of MDD.