Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability worldwide. There is an urgent need for objective biomarkers to diagnose this highly heterogeneous syndrome, assign treatment, and evaluate treatment response and prognosis. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs, which are detected in body fluids that have emerged as potential biomarkers of many disease conditions. The present study explored the potential use of miRNAs as biomarkers for MDD and its treatment. We profiled the expression levels of circulating blood miRNAs from mice that were collected before and after exposure to chronic social defeat stress (CSDS), an extensively validated mouse model used to study depression, as well as after either repeated imipramine or single-dose ketamine treatment. We observed robust differences in blood miRNA signatures between stress-resilient and stress-susceptible mice after an incubation period, but not immediately after exposure to the stress. Furthermore, ketamine treatment was more effective than imipramine at re-establishing baseline miRNA expression levels, but only in mice that responded behaviorally to the drug. We identified the red blood cell-specific miR-144-3p as a candidate biomarker to aid depression diagnosis and predict ketamine treatment response in stress-susceptible mice and MDD patients. Lastly, we demonstrate that systemic knockdown of miR-144-3p, via subcutaneous administration of a specific antagomir, is sufficient to reduce the depression-related phenotype in stress-susceptible mice. RNA-sequencing analysis of blood after such miR-144-3p knockdown revealed a blunted transcriptional stress signature as well. These findings identify miR-144-3p as a novel target for diagnosis of MDD as well as for antidepressant treatment, and enhance our understanding of epigenetic processes associated with depression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Molecular Biology