Parallels Between Major Depressive Disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease: Role of Oxidative Stress and Genetic Vulnerability

Roberto Rodrigues, Robert B. Petersen, George Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The thesis of this review is that oxidative stress is the central factor in major depressive disorder (MDD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The major elements involved are inflammatory cytokines, the hypothalamic–pituitary axis, the hypothalamic–pituitary gonadal, and arginine vasopressin systems, which induce glucocorticoid and “oxidopamatergic” cascades when triggered by psychosocial stress, severe life-threatening events, and mental-affective and somatic diseases. In individuals with a genomic vulnerability to depression, these cascades may result in chronic depression–anxiety–stress spectra, resulting in MDD and other known depressive syndromes. In contrast, in subjects with genomic vulnerability to AD, oxidative stress-induced brain damage triggers specific antioxidant defenses, i.e., increased levels of amyloid-β (Aβ) and aggregation of hyper-phosphorylated tau, resulting in paired helical filaments and impaired functions related to the ApoEε4 isoform, leading to complex pathological cascades culminating in AD. Surprisingly, all the AD-associated molecular pathways mentioned in this review have been shown to be similar or analogous to those found in depression, including structural damage, i.e., hippocampal and frontal cortex atrophy. Other interacting molecular signals, i.e., GSK-3β, convergent survival factors (brain-derived neurotrophic factor and heat shock proteins), and transition redox metals are also mentioned to emphasize the vast array of intermediates that could interact via comparable mechanisms in both MDD and AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-949
Number of pages25
JournalCellular and Molecular Neurobiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyloid β
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Nucleic acid oxidation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Tau


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