J Korean Soc Biol Ther Psychiatry.  2019 Feb;25(1):5-12. 10.0000/jksbtp.2019.25.1.5.

Gender Differences in the Clinical Manifestation of Depression and Related Neurotransmitters

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Catholic University of Daegu School of Medicine, Daegu, Korea.
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Kyungpook National University, School of Medicine, Daegu, Korea. psyjang@knu.ac.kr

Abstract

Depression is almost twice as prevalent in women than men. Atypical symptoms, somatic complaints, and comorbid anxiety disorders are more common in women, whereas suicide and comorbid substance use disorders are more common in men. Previous studies have also reported gender differences in the efficacy of and tolerability to specific classes of antidepressants. Various psychosocial and biological factors have been proposed to explain the gender differences in clinical characteristics of depression. The predominant theory of depression pathogenesis is the monoamine hypothesis, and consequently, monoamine neurotransmitters have been the primary target of antidepressants. In the first section of this review, study findings of clinical differences in depression by gender are summarized. Then, we provide an overview of the findings from human and rodent studies of gender differences in serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and glutamate neurotransmitter systems. Total level, rate of synthesis, and receptor profiles of neurotransmitters seem to differ by gender in the euthymic state, depressed state, and in responses to stress or antidepressants. Furthermore, these neurotransmitters interact with gonadal hormones and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, systems that innately exhibit gender differences. Although most of the studies conducted so far are limited to animal models and results of the studies are heterogeneous, growing evidence suggests that gender differences exist in neurotransmitter systems, which possibly leads to gender differences in depression. More intensive studies in this field are needed to build gender-specific treatment strategies.

Keyword

Depression; Gender; Serotonin; Norepinephrine; Dopamine; Glutamate

MeSH Terms

Antidepressive Agents
Anxiety Disorders
Biological Factors
Depression*
Dopamine
Female
Glutamic Acid
Gonadal Hormones
Humans
Male
Models, Animal
Neurotransmitter Agents*
Norepinephrine
Rodentia
Serotonin
Substance-Related Disorders
Suicide
Antidepressive Agents
Biological Factors
Dopamine
Glutamic Acid
Gonadal Hormones
Neurotransmitter Agents
Norepinephrine
Serotonin
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