Peripheral cytokine and chemokine alterations in depression: a meta-analysis of 82 studies

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To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that measured cytokine and chemokine levels in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) compared to healthy controls (HCs).


The PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO databases were searched up until May 30, 2016. Effect sizes were estimated with random-effects models.


Eighty-two studies comprising 3212 participants with MDD and 2798 HCs met inclusion criteria. Peripheral levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, IL-10, the soluble IL-2 receptor, C-C chemokine ligand 2, IL-13, IL-18, IL-12, the IL-1 receptor antagonist, and the soluble TNF receptor 2 were elevated in patients with MDD compared to HCs, whereas interferon-gamma levels were lower in MDD (Hedge's g = −0.477, P = 0.043). Levels of IL-1β, IL-2, IL-4, IL-8, the soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R), IL-5, CCL-3, IL-17, and transforming growth factor-beta 1 were not significantly altered in individuals with MDD compared to HCs. Heterogeneity was large (I2: 51.6–97.7%), and sources of heterogeneity were explored (e.g., age, smoking status, and body mass index).


Our results further characterize a cytokine/chemokine profile associated with MDD. Future studies are warranted to further elucidate sources of heterogeneity, as well as biosignature cytokines secreted by other immune cells.

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