Research Article| Volume 32, ISSUE 4, P354-363, August 15, 1992

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Low plasma γ-aminobutyric acid levels in male patients with depression

  • Frederick Petty
    Address reprint requests to Frederick Petty, Ph.D., M.D., Psychiatry Service (116A), Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 4500 South Lancaster Road, Dallas, Texas 75216.
    Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas 75216, USA
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  • Gerald L. Kramer
    Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas 75216, USA
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  • Christina M. Gullion
    Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas 75216, USA
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  • A. John Rush
    Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas 75216, USA
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  • Author Footnotes
    ∗∗ We thank Dinah Turner-Knight for excellent secretarial support in preparing the manuscript, Tery Phillips, David Dunnam, B.S., and Gayle Patterson, B.A. for technical assistance and Kenneth Z. Altshuler, M.D. Stanton Sharpe Professor and Chairman for administrative support.
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      Plasma levels of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) were significantly lower in males with primary unipolar major depressive disorder than in healthy controls. Although the difference in means between control and symptomatic depressed patient groups was small, the distribution of plasma GABA in the depressed patients was markedly different from controls. Forty percent of depressed patients had plasma GABA levels below those of controls. Plasma GABA levels correlated positively with duration of illness, and negatively with age at onset of the mood disorder and the total Endogenomorphic Symptom Score on the Hamilton Rating Scale. Plasma GABA levels may be a biochemical marker of vulnerability to depression, as opposed to a consequence of the illness. A low GABA condition in depression fits and complements the prevailing biogenic amine hypotheses of depression.
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