Platelet MAO activity and the cortisol response to dexamethasone in major depression

Herbert Y. Meltzer*, Martin T. Lowy, Joseph J. Locascio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Previous studies have sometimes found a positive relationship between platelet monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity and dexamethasone nonsuppression in depressed patients. To assess this relationship in more detail, we examined the association between these two biological variables in unmedicated depressed patients. A positive correlation between platelet MAO activity and 8:00 am serum cortisol levels following an overnight dexamethasone test (1 mg) was observed. The relationship between high and low platelet MAO activity (median split) and suppression of serum cortisol levels was also significant. These relationships were stronger in bipolar patients. Multiple regression revealed that postdexamethasone 8:00 am dexamethasone levels and platelet MAO activity were independent predictors of the 8:00 am cortisol levels following dexamethasone. The possibility that platelet MAO activity may be a peripheral marker of brain serotonergic activity which in turn may affect various aspects of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, is discussed. We also found that all nine depressed patients studied ≥ 15 days after admission were suppressors. Platelet MAO activity, but not 8:00 am pre- or postdexamethasone serum cortisol, was related to the severity of depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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