Oxidative Stress Contributes to Microvascular Endothelial Dysfunction in Men and Women with Major Depressive Disorder

Jody L. Greaney, Erika F.H. Saunders, Lakshmi Santhanam, Lacy M. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Rationale: In rodent models of depression, oxidative stress-induced reductions in NO bioavailability contribute to impaired endothelium-dependent dilation. Endothelial dysfunction is evident in major depressive disorder (MDD); however, the molecular mediators remain undefined. Objective: We sought to translate preclinical findings to humans by testing the role of oxidative stress in mediating microvascular endothelial dysfunction, including potential modulatory influences of sex, in MDD. Methods and Results: Twenty-four treatment-naive, otherwise healthy, young adults with MDD (14 women; 18-23 years) and 20 healthy adults (10 women; 19-30 years) participated. Red blood cell flux (laser Doppler flowmetry) was measured during graded intradermal microdialysis perfusion of the endothelium-dependent agonist acetylcholine, alone and in combination with an NO synthase inhibitor (L-NAME), a superoxide scavenger (Tempol), and an NADPH oxidase inhibitor (apocynin), as well as during perfusion of the endothelium-independent agonist sodium nitroprusside. Tissue oxidative stress markers (eg, nitrotyrosine abundance, superoxide production) were also quantified. Endothelium-dependent dilation was blunted in MDD and mediated by reductions in NO-dependent dilation. Endothelium-independent dilation was likewise attenuated in MDD. In MDD, there were no sex differences in either NO-mediated endothelium-dependent dilation or endothelium-independent dilation. Acute scavenging of superoxide or inhibition of NADPH oxidase improved NO-dependent dilation in MDD. Expression and activity of oxidative stress markers were increased in MDD. In a subset of adults with MDD treated with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor for their depressive symptoms and in remission (n=8; 7 women; 19-37 years), NO-mediated endothelium-dependent dilation was preserved, but endothelium-independent dilation was impaired, compared with healthy adults. Conclusions: Oxidative stress-induced reductions in NO-dependent dilation, as well as alterations in vascular smooth muscle function, directly contribute to microvascular dysfunction in MDD. Strategies targeting vascular oxidative stress may be viable therapeutic options for improving NO-mediated endothelial function and reducing cardiovascular risk in MDD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-574
Number of pages11
JournalCirculation research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Oxidative Stress Contributes to Microvascular Endothelial Dysfunction in Men and Women with Major Depressive Disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this