Background: Early intervention in depression has been critical to prevent its negative impact including suicide. Recent blood biomarker studies for major depressive disorder (MDD) have suggested that tryptophan-kynurenine and lipid related metabolites are involved in the pathophysiology of MDD. However, there have been limited studies investigating these blood biomarkers in first-episode drug-naïve MDD, which are particularly important for early intervention in depression. Methods: As an exploratory pilot case-control study, we examined the above blood biomarkers, and analyzed how these biomarkers are associated with clinical variables in first-episode drug-naïve MDD patients, based on metabolome/lipidome analysis. Results: Plasma tryptophan and kynurenine levels were significantly lower in MDD group (N = 15) compared to healthy controls (HC) group (N = 19), and plasma tryptophan was the significant biomarker to identify MDD group (area under the curve = 0.740). Lower serum high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) was the predictive biomarker for severity of depression in MDD group (R2 = 0.444). Interestingly, depressive symptoms were variously correlated with plasma tryptophan-kynurenine and lipid related metabolites. Moreover, plasma tryptophan-kynurenine metabolites and cholesteryl esters (CEs) were significantly correlated in MDD group, but not in HC group. Limitations: This study had small sample size, and we did not use the multiple test correction. Conclusions: This is the first study to suggest that not only tryptophan-kynurenine metabolites but also HDL-C and CEs are important blood biomarkers for first-episode drug-naïve MDD patients. The present study sheds new light on early intervention in clinical practice in depression, and further clinical studies especially large-scale prospective studies are warranted.
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