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Major depression and its treatment: microRNAs as peripheral biomarkers of diagnosis and treatment response

Lopez, Juan, Pabloa,b; Kos, Aronb; Turecki, Gustavoa

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: January 2018 - Volume 31 - Issue 1 - p 7–16
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000379
MOOD AND ANXIETY DISORDERS: Edited by Sidney H. Kennedy and Hans-Ulrich Wittchen

Purpose of review Major depressive disorder (MDD) is among the most prevalent and disabling medical conditions worldwide. Despite its considerable burden, our understanding of its pathophysiology remains rudimentary, and a validated biomarker has yet to be identified. Antidepressants are the most common treatment for MDD, yet roughly one-third of patients experience an inadequate response. Thus, there is a great need for not only identifying biomarkers of MDD but also those that can predict and monitor or just monitor response to treatment.

Recent findings MicroRNAs (miRNAs) act as endogenous fine-tuners and on–off switches of gene expression. Several lines of evidence now suggest that miRNAs are involved in the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders. As such, miRNAs offer great hope as biomarkers of disease and response to treatment.

Summary In this review, we discuss the growing field, investigating peripheral miRNAs as potential biomarkers of major depression and treatment response. A noninvasive and validated biomarker of MDD or treatment response will help clinicians guide treatment selection. Ultimately, these findings provide important steps in the development of early diagnostic tools, preventive strategies, and effective pharmacological treatment for psychiatric disorders.

aDepartment of Psychiatry, McGill Group for Suicide Studies, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

bDepartment of Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany

Correspondence to Gustavo Turecki, MD, PhD, McGill Group for Suicide Studies, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Frank B Common Pavilion, Room F-3125, 6875 LaSalle Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec, H4H 1R3, Canada. Tel: +514 761 6131 x2369; fax: +514 762 3023; e-mail:

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