May 1992

Circulating Natural Killer Cell Phenotypes in Men and Women With Major DepressionRelation to Cytotoxic Activity and Severity of Depression

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry (Drs Evans, Petitto, Golden, Pedersen, Corrigan, and Gilmore and Ms Silva), Microbiology (Dr Folds), and Medicine (Drs Evans and Ozer), the General Clinical Research Center (Dr Golden), and the Lineberger Cancer Center (Dr Ozer), School of Medicine; and the Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health (Dr Quade), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1992;49(5):388-395. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1992.01820050052009

• The effects of major depression on peripheral blood natural killer cell phenotypes and natural killer cell activity were studied by comparing depressed and normal control subjects. Depressed subjects exhibited (1) significant reductions in Leu-11 (CD16) natural killer effector cells and natural killer cell activity and (2) a dissociation of the normal positive correlation between the percentage of Leu-11 cells and natural killer cell activity. These findings suggest that alterations in the availability and the killing capacity of circulating Leu-11 natural killer cells appear to be responsible for depression-related reductions in natural killer cell activity. Moreover, men with major depression showed marked reductions in Leu-11 cells, natural killer cell activity, and Leu-7 (HNK-1) lymphocytes compared with normal control men. By contrast, depressed women did not differ significantly from normal control women on any of these three immune function measures. Severity of depression as assessed by Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression scores was not associated with natural killer cell activity or Leu-7 lymphocyte levels in either men or women with major depression. Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression severity ratings were, however, strongly inversely correlated with Leu-11 lymphocyte counts among men, but not women, with major depression. These data begin to elucidate the immunological mechanisms by which natural killer cell activity is altered in depression and suggest that some measures of immunity may be differentially affected in male and female subjects with the syndrome of major depression.