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Elevated Tyrosine Hydroxylase in the Locus Coeruleus of Suicide Victims


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. G. A. Ordway at Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39216, U.S.A.


Abstract: The amounts of tyrosine hydroxylase protein in locus coeruleus from nine pairs of antidepressant-free suicide victims and age-matched, sudden-death control cases were determined by quantitative blot immunolabeling of cryostat-cut sections from the caudal portion of the nucleus. In each of the nine age-matched pairs, the concentration of tyrosine hydroxylase was greater in the sample from the suicide victim, with values ranging from 108 to 172% of the matched control value (\-x = 136%). By contrast, there were no differences in the concentrations of neuron-specific enolase protein in the same set of samples. Similarly, the number of neuromelanin-containing cells, counted in sections of locus coeruleus adjacent to those taken for blot immunolabeling analyses, did not differ between the two groups. These data indicate that locus coeruleus neurons from suicide victims contain higher than normal concentrations of tyrosine hydroxylase, thus raising the possibility that the expression of tyrosine hydroxylase in locus coeruleus may be relevant in the pathophysiology of suicide.