BACKGROUND: Treatment-resistant depression patients show both reduced glucocorticoid receptor function and a hyperactive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. However, few studies have examined the role of the mineralocorticoid receptor. This study aimed to evaluate the functional activity of the mineralocorticoid receptor system in regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in well-defined treatment-resistant depression patients.
MATERIAL AND METHOD: We recruited 24 subjects divided into: (a) treatment-resistant depression; (b) healthy controls. We evaluated: (a) the effect of combined glucocorticoid receptor/mineralocorticoid receptor stimulation with prednisolone; (b) the effect of prednisolone with the mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist spironolactone; and (c) the effect of spironolactone alone. The response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis was measured using salivary cortisol and plasma levels of drugs were also measured.
RESULTS: Treatment-resistant depression patients had higher cortisol compared with controls after all challenges. In controls, spironolactone increased cortisol compared to placebo. The co-administration of spironolactone with prednisolone in controls decreases the suppressive effects of prednisolone. In contrast, in treatment-resistant depression, spironolactone did not increase cortisol compared to placebo and spironolactone with prednisolone had no effect on the suppressive effects of prednisolone. Patients with treatment-resistant depression had a reduction in the conversation of spironolactone to the active metabolite canrenone.
CONCLUSION: Our data confirmed that treatment-resistant depression is associated with hypercortisolism and these patients no longer show an hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response to the administration of a mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist, suggesting that there is a mineralocorticoid receptor malfunctioning, such as a down regulation, however, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in these subjects could also have had an effect on the lack of mineralocorticoid receptor response.
- Case-Control Studies
- Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant/physiopathology
- Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System/metabolism
- Middle Aged
- Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists/administration & dosage
- Pituitary-Adrenal System/metabolism
- Prednisolone/administration & dosage
- Receptors, Glucocorticoid/drug effects
- Receptors, Mineralocorticoid/drug effects
- Single-Blind Method
- Spironolactone/administration & dosage