Section: RO1 MH095380 Novel targets need to be identified to develop new therapies for depression, a prevalent and debilitating disease often not adequately treated. The immune system is one such novel target, as substantial evidence demonstrates its involvement in depression. While previously the CNS was considered insulated from the immune system, it is now well-established that immune cells in the CNS modulate multiple processes, such as neurogenesis and cognition. The immune system includes a rapid-response innate immune system that produces cytokines and chemokines that activate and recruit the adaptive immune system, which includes T cells that possess the capacity of memory. Many CNS functions, such as cognition and mood, are affected by cytokines, but less is known about the regulation and functional effects of T cells in the CNS associated with depression. The overall hypothesis of this project is that T cells have subtype-specific regulatory effects on the susceptibility to depression and responses to antidepressants. We will examine the influences of T cell subtypes on susceptibility to depressive-like behavior, and examine the role of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) as a regulatory mechanism linking immune responses with susceptibility to depression. These goals will identify new mechanisms by which the adaptive immune system may contribute to depression and be a novel target for therapeutic intervention.
Specific Aim 1 will test the hypothesis that T cell subtype-selective actions in the brain modify depressive-like behavior. T cell depletion and transfer approaches will be used to identify consequences of T cell subtypes on susceptibility to depression-like behavior. Our Preliminary Results show accumulation of inflammatory Th1 and Th17 cells in the brains of mice exhibiting depression-like behavior, that Th1 cell depletion exacerbates depression-like behavior, that Th17 cell depletion ameliorates depression-like behavior, and that Treg repletion has antidepressant effects.
Specific Aim 2 will test the hypothesis that glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) is a critical link between immune activation and susceptibility to depressive-like behavior. Our Preliminary Results show that mice expressing constitutively active GSK3 (GSK3 knockin mice) display increased susceptibility to depression-like behavior and that GSK3 drives the production of inflammatory Th17 cells. Because GSK3 promotes depression-like behavior, is linked to human depression, regulates the generation of T cell subtypes, and promotes inflammatory responses, we will apply molecular and pharmacological manipulations of GSK3 to test if GSK3's immune effects contribute to its promotion of susceptibility to depression.

Public Health Relevance

Depression afflicts approximately 20% of the population of the United States at some point in their lifetimes. However, currently available treatments often do not provide adequate therapeutic benefits. Therefore, there is a great need to find new targets that may be amenable for developing new treatments. Recent information indicates that aberrant actions of the immune system contribute to depression, which may provide a new modality for controlling depression. In particular, new evidence has revealed that immune reactions are promoted by one mechanism that also is known to increase susceptibility in models of depression, suggesting a link between these two systems. Thus, this project addresses several important aspects of how the immune system may contribute to depression susceptibility.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep Study Section (NNRS)
Program Officer
Desmond, Nancy L
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Miami School of Medicine
Schools of Medicine
Coral Gables
United States
Zip Code
Beurel, Eleonore; Grieco, Steven F; Jope, Richard S (2015) Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3): regulation, actions, and diseases. Pharmacol Ther 148:114-31
Beurel, Eléonore; Harrington, Laurie E; Buchser, William et al. (2014) Astrocytes modulate the polarization of CD4+ T cells to Th1 cells. PLoS One 9:e86257
King, Margaret K; Pardo, Marta; Cheng, Yuyan et al. (2014) Glycogen synthase kinase-3 inhibitors: Rescuers of cognitive impairments. Pharmacol Ther 141:1-12
Beurel, Eléonore; Kaidanovich-Beilin, Oksana; Yeh, Wen-I et al. (2013) Regulation of Th1 cells and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by glycogen synthase kinase-3. J Immunol 190:5000-11
Beurel, Eléonore; Harrington, Laurie E; Jope, Richard S (2013) Inflammatory T helper 17 cells promote depression-like behavior in mice. Biol Psychiatry 73:622-30