Lower cerebrospinal fluid homovanillic acid levels in depressed suicide attempters

Leo Sher, J. John Mann, Lil Traskman-Bendz, Ronald Winchel, Yung Yu Huang, Eric Fertuck, Barbara H. Stanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Background: Studies suggest that the dopaminergic system is involved in the pathogenesis of major depression, Axis II disorders, and suicidal behavior. Depressed suicide attempters constitute a heterogenous group and important differences may exist between depressed suicide attempters with or without Axis II disorders. Therefore, we compared demographic and clinical parameters, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) homovanillic acid (HVA) levels in depressed suicide attempters without comorbid Axis II disorders, depressed non-attempters without comorbid Axis II disorders, and normal controls. Methods: Thirty-one depressed subjects with a history of a suicide attempt, 27 depressed subjects without a history of a suicide attempt, and 50 healthy controls were included in the study. Subjects with comorbid Axis II disorders were excluded. Demographic and clinical parameters, and CSF HVA levels were examined. Results: The two depressed groups did not differ with regard to depression, aggression, hopelessness, and total hostility scale scores. Depressed suicide attempters had higher current suicidal ideation scores compared to depressed non-attempters. Depressed suicide attempters had lower CSF HVA levels compared to depressed non-attempters (t = 4.4, df = 56, p < 0.0001) and to controls (t = - 4.09, df = 79, p < 0.0001). There was no difference in CSF HVA levels between depressed non-attempters and controls (t < 1, df = 75, NS). Conclusions: Dopaminergic abnormalities are associated with suicidality but not with depression. The variability in the rates of comorbid Axis II disorders and in the prevalence of suicide attempters in different patient populations may affect both clinical and biological results of studies of mood disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Depression
  • Dopamine
  • Homovanillic acid
  • Suicide


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