Markers of Elevated Oxidative Stress in Oligodendrocytes Captured From the Brainstem and Occipital Cortex in Major Depressive Disorder and Suicide

Document Type


Publication Date



Major depressive disorder (MDD) and suicide have been associated with elevated indices of oxidative damage in the brain, as well as white matter pathology including reduced myelination by oligodendrocytes. Oligodendrocytes highly populate white matter and are inherently susceptible to oxidative damage. Pathology of white matter oligodendrocytes has been reported to occur in brain regions that process behaviors that are disrupted in MDD and that may contribute to suicidal behavior. The present study was designed to determine whether oligodendrocyte pathology related to oxidative damage extends to brain areas outside of those that are traditionally considered to contribute to the psychopathology of MDD and suicide. Relative telomere lengths and the gene expression of five antioxidant-related genes, SOD1, SOD2, GPX1, CAT, and AGPS were measured in oligodendrocytes laser captured from two non-limbic brain areas: occipital cortical white matter and the brainstem locus coeruleus. Postmortem brain tissues were obtained from brain donors that died by suicide and had an active MDD at the time of death, and from psychiatrically normal control donors. Relative telomere lengths were significantly reduced in oligodendrocytes of both brain regions in MDD donors as compared to control donors. Three antioxidant-related genes (SOD1, SOD2, GPX1) were significantly reduced and one was significantly elevated (AGPS) in oligodendrocytes from both brain regions in MDD as compared to control donors. These findings suggest that oligodendrocyte pathology in MDD and suicide is widespread in the brain and not restricted to brain areas commonly associated with depression psychopathology.