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Logo of bmcpsycBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Psychiatry
BMC Psychiatry. 2012; 12: 126.
Published online 2012 August 28. 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



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.


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.


[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).


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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