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Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis and Prolactin Abnormalities in Suicidal Behavior

[ Vol. 12 , Issue. 7 ]


Maurizio Pompili, Gianluca Serafini, Mario Palermo, Maria Elena Seretti, Henry Stefani, Gloria Angeletti, David Lester, Mario Amore and Paolo Girardi   Pages 954 - 970 ( 17 )


Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity measured with the dexamethasone suppression test and the dexamethesone/CRH test may have some predictive power for suicidal behavior in patients with mood disorders. Increased prolactin (PRL) levels may be related both to physiological and pathological conditions. HPA-axis abnormalities and increased levels of PRL may coexist, and common neuroendocrine changes may activate both HPA axis and PRL release. HPA-axis hyperactivity is presumably present in a large subpopulation of depressed subjects. Suicidal behavior is considered to be a form of inward-directed aggression, and aggressive behavior has been connected to high androgen levels. However, lower plasma total testosterone levels have also been reported in subjects with depression and higher suicidality. Lipid/immune dysregulations, the increased ratio of blood fatty acids, and increased PRL levels may each be associated with the increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which have been reported in patients with major depression and patients engaging in suicidal behavior. Although no studies have been done to determine whether ante-mortem physical stress may be detected by raised post-mortem PRL, this would be of great interest for physicians.


Suicidal behavior, stress, prolactin, HPA axis.


Department of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Organs – Sant’Andrea Hospital, “Sapienza” University of Rome, 1035-1039, Via di Grottarossa, 00189, Rome, Italy.

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