Antidepressant drugs represent the principal form of treatment for major depressive disorder. While there are a plethora of medications available for this task, current drugs have many shortcomings. In the face of these deficiencies there is an ongoing search for new agents. The search has been guided, in part, by drug design based on existing agents and their putative mechanism of action. This has been less than fruitful in addressing inadequacies of existing medications as it has not produced compounds which are novel in terms of pharmacological mechanisms. Recent insights from molecular biological approaches hold promise for the discovery of novel compounds, in particular the so-called neurogenesis hypothesis suggests novel therapeutic approaches. Although significantly modified over the years, the monoamine hypothesis of depression and antidepressant drug action still remains an important driving force behind the development of new compounds. Several recently marketed agents and some in early-phase development tend to conform to these existing mechanistic hypotheses. Clearly the place of these agents in the treatment of depression is dependent on issues such as short- and long-term safety and efficacy. Duloxetine has been developed as a dual monoamine re-uptake inhibitor. Agomelatine is a compound with major effects on the circadian system as well as effects on subtypes of the serotonin receptor system. While the mechanism of action of this compound is not certain, recent evidence would suggest that the drug exerts its effects through antagonist actions at serotonin receptors. Compounds based on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, substance P antagonism and other neuropeptides have potential application for the treatment of depression but require further development before that potential is realized.