Low cerebrospinal fluid corticotropin-releasing hormone concentrations in eucortisolemic depression

Biological Psychiatry
T D GeraciotiD N Orth


Hypersecretion of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and resulting hypercortisolism have been implicated in the pathogenesis of major depression. To test this CRH hypersecretion hypothesis, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was continuously withdrawn from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM via an indwelling subarachnoid catheter (placed at 8:00 AM), and immunoreactive CRH concentrations were determined at 10-min intervals in 10 depressed patients, the majority of whom exhibited at least one "atypical" symptom, and in 15 normal volunteers. CSF CRH was low, plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) tended to be low, and plasma cortisol was normal in the depressed patients. Also, tobacco smokers had lower CSF CRH than nonsmokers. CRH increased acutely in response to lumbar puncture, had a brief half-life, showed rapid variability in concentration over time, and displayed a diurnal concentration rhythm that was preserved in fasting individuals and in most depressed patients. CSF CRH did not correlate with plasma ACTH or cortisol; this and its rapidly fluctuating levels suggest a primarily extrahypothalamic origin of lumbar CSF CRH.


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