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Neuroactive steroids after estrogen exposure in depressed postmenopausal women treated with sertraline and asymptomatic postmenopausal women

  • Author(s): Morgan, Melinda L.
  • Rapkin, Andrea J.
  • Biggio, Giovanni
  • Serra, Mariangela
  • Pisu, Maria Giuseppina
  • Rasgon, Natalie
  • et al.

Neuroactive steroids (NAS) allopregnanolone (ALLO), Allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (THDOC) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) are important in the regulation of mood and behavior. Knowledge about these steroids in postmenopausal depression and the effect of estrogen on NAS is lacking. We elected to determine if there were differences in NAS between postmenopausal depressed women and age matched controls. We also investigated the effect of estradiol on NAS in post menopausal depressed women receiving a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and in non-depressed postmenopausal controls. As part of a previously published double blind study on estrogen acceleration of antidepressant action, post menopausal women with major depression receiving sertraline and healthy non depressed controls were randomized to transdermal estrogen patch 0.1 mg or placebo. NAS were measured at baseline and after 10 weeks of treatment. Depressed subjects were treated with sertraline 50 mg/day to 100 mg/day for 9 weeks. At the baseline and after treatment ALLO and DHEA were significantly lower in depressed women compared to controls. Although all depressed subjects experienced a positive clinical response, estrogen administration was not associated with changes in NAS in either the depressed or the asymptomatic postmenopausal women. The lower ALLO and DHEA in postmenopausal depressed women suggests that symptoms of depression may be influenced by the synthesis or fluctuation of these NAS. Estradiol exposure did not alter ALLO, DHEA, or THDOC, implying these NAS are unlikely to play a role in any mood changes in post menopausal women given estrogen therapy.

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