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BMC Psychiatry. 2012; 12: 126.
Published online Aug 28, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1471-244X-12-126
PMCID: PMC3479023
Mu opioid receptor availability in people with psychiatric disorders who died by suicide: a case control study
Elizabeth Scarr,corresponding author1,2 Tammie Terese Money,1,2 Geoffrey Pavey,1 Jaclyn Neo,1,2 and Brian Dean1,2
1Molecular Psychiatry Laboratory, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne Brain Centre, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
2Department of Psychiatry, Melbourne Brain Centre, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Elizabeth Scarr: elscarr/at/unimelb.edu.au; Tammie Terese Money: ttmoney/at/unimelb.edu.au; Geoffrey Pavey: geoffrey.pavey/at/unimelb.edu.au; Jaclyn Neo: jaclyn.neo/at/unimelb.edu.au; Brian Dean: anddali/at/unimelb.edu.au
Received November 21, 2011; Accepted August 23, 2012.
Abstract
Background
Mu opioid receptors have previously been shown to be altered in people with affective disorders who died as a result of suicide. We wished to determine whether these changes were more widespread and independent of psychiatric diagnoses.
Methods
Mu receptor levels were determined using [3 H]DAMGO binding in BA24 from 51 control subjects; 38 people with schizophrenia (12 suicides); 20 people with major depressive disorder (15 suicides); 13 people with bipolar disorder (5 suicides) and 9 people who had no history of psychiatric disorders but who died as a result of suicide. Mu receptor levels were further determined in BA9 and caudate-putamen from 38 people with schizophrenia and 20 control subjects using [3 H]DAMGO binding and, in all three regions, using Western blots. Data was analysed using one-way ANOVAs with Bonferroni’s Multiple Comparison Test or, where data either didn’t approximate to a binomial distribution or the sample size was too small to determine distribution, a Kruskal-Wallis test with Dunn’s Multiple Comparison Test.
Results
[3 H]DAMGO binding density was lower in people who had died as a result of suicide (p<0.01). People with schizophrenia who had died as a result of suicide had lower binding than control subjects (p<0.001), whilst people with bipolar disorder (non- suicide) had higher levels of binding (p<0.05). [3 H]DAMGO binding densities, but not mu protein levels, were significantly decreased in BA9 from people with schizophrenia who died as a result of suicide (p<0.01).
Conclusions
Overall these data suggest that mu opioid receptor availability is decreased in the brains of people with schizophrenia who died as a result of suicide, which would be consistent with increased levels of endogenous ligands occupying these receptors.
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