Elevated levels of tyrosine hydroxylase in the locus coeruleus in major depression

Meng Yang Zhu, Violetta Klimek, Ginny E. Dilley, John W. Haycock, Craig Stockmeier, James C. Overholser, Herbert Y. Meltzer, Gregory A. Ordway*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Background: Levels of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) are regulated in the noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) in response to changes in the activity of LC neurons and in response to changes in brain levels of norepinephrine. To study the potential role of central noradrenergic neurons in the pathobiology of major depression, TH protein was measured in the LC from postmortem brains of 13 subjects with a diagnosis of major depression and 13 age-matched control subjects having no Axis I psychiatric diagnosis. Most of the major depressive subjects died as a result of suicide.Methods: Protein from sections cut through multiple rostro-caudal levels of LC was transferred to Immobilon-P membrane, immunoblotted for TH, and quantified autoradiographically.Results: The distribution of TH-immunoreactivity (TH-ir) along the rostro-caudal axis of the LC was uneven and was paralleled by a similar uneven distribution of neuromelanin-containing cells in both major depressive and psychiatrically normal control subjects. Amounts of TH-ir in the rostral, middle and caudal levels of the LC from major depressive subjects were significantly higher than that of matched control subjects. There were no significant differences in the number of noradrenergic cells at any particular level of the LC comparing major depressive subjects to control subjects.Conclusions: Elevated expression of TH in the LC in major depression implies a premortem overactivity of these neurons, or a deficiency of the cognate transmitter, norepinephrine. Copyright (C) 1999 Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1286
Number of pages12
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 1999


  • Human
  • Locus coeruleus
  • Major depression
  • Norepinephrine
  • Postmortem
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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