Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci.  2019 Feb;17(1):34-42. 10.9758/cpn.2019.17.1.34.

Values of Cytokines and Tryptophan Metabolites over a 12 Weeks Time Course in Patients with Depression and Somatoform Disorder

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, LMU Munich, Germany.
  • 2Department of Laboratory Medicine, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.
  • 3Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Philipps University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany.
  • 4Department of Hematology and Oncology, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, Vogtland Hospital, Plauen, Germany.


Previous studies have suggested alterations in the kynurenine pathway as a major link between cytokine and neurotransmitter abnormalities in psychiatric disorders. Most of these studies used a cross-sectional case-control study design. However, knowledge is still lacking regarding the stability over time of kynurenine pathway metabolites and the functionally related cytokines. Therefore, we studied the stability of cytokines and tryptophan (TRP) parameters over a period of 12 weeks.
A total of 117 participants–39 with major depression, 27 with somatoform disorder, and 51 healthy controls–were enrolled. Four evaluations, including blood withdrawal and psychometric testing, were performed over a period of 12 weeks. We used ELISA to measure interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1 receptor antagonist (RA) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF α). High-performance liquid chromatography was used to analyze neurotransmitter variables, i.e. TRP, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), kynurenine (KYN), 3-OH-kynurenine (3-HK), and kynurenic acid (KYNA).
We found no significant fluctuations of TRP, its metabolites (5-HIAA, KYN, KYNA, and 3-HK), or the cytokines (IL-1RA, IL-6, and TNF α) in any of the groups over the 12 weeks.
To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study performed in psychiatric patients to verify the stability and consequently the reliability of the biological parameters we investigated. Our data indicate that TRP metabolites and cytokines are reliable biological parameters in psychiatric research because they do not fluctuate significantly over time.


Cytokines; Tryptophan; Depression; Somatoform disorders; Kynurenine; Kynurenic acid
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