Disrupted serotonergic neurotransmission has long been implicated in major depressive disorder (MDD), for which selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first line of treatment. However, a significant percentage of patients remain SSRI-resistant and it is unclear whether and how alterations in serotonergic neurons contribute to SSRI resistance in these patients. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) facilitate the study of patient-specific neural subtypes that are typically inaccessible in living patients, enabling the discovery of disease-related phenotypes. In our study of a well-characterized cohort of over 800 MDD patients, we generated iPSCs and serotonergic neurons from three extreme SSRI-remitters (R) and SSRI-nonremitters (NR). We studied serotonin (5-HT) biochemistry and observed no significant differences in 5-HT release and reuptake or in genes related to 5-HT biochemistry. NR patient-derived serotonergic neurons exhibited altered neurite growth and morphology downstream of lowered expression of key Protocadherin alpha genes as compared to healthy controls and Rs. Furthermore, knockdown of Protocadherin alpha genes directly regulated iPSC-derived neurite length and morphology. Our results suggest that intrinsic differences in serotonergic neuron morphology and the resulting circuitry may contribute to SSRI resistance in MDD patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience