Glucocorticoids and depression

T Steckler, F Holsboer, J M Reul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


Depression has been associated with impaired mineralocorticoid receptor function, restrained glucocorticoid receptor feedback at the level of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, raised cortisol level and increased corticotropin-releasing factor activity, which may act in concert to induce the signs and symptoms of the disorder. Pre-clinical and clinical evidence suggests that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of these HPA axis abnormalities in depressed patients. Support for this view derives from models using genetically modified animals and/or chronic stress exposure at different developmental stages, although all of the current approaches have to be viewed within their limitations to model the disease. However, both animal and human studies challenging the HPA system show at least some neuroendocrine and behavioural changes comparable to those seen in depression, suggesting that some of the depressive symptoms can be attributed to HPA axis hyperactivity. Moreover, normalization of the neuroendocrine function following chronic antidepressant drug treatment seems to be a prerequisite for stable remission of depressive psychopathology, i.e. that normalization of HPA function is critical for relief of the clinical symptomatology of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-614
Number of pages18
JournalBaillière's Best Practice Research: Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Behavior
  • Depression
  • Environment
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System
  • Neurotransmitter Agents


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