Honors Program

University Honors, Honors in Health Sciences: Microbiology

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Gregory Ordway

Thesis Professor Department

Biomedical Sciences

Thesis Reader(s)

Ranjan Chakraborty


MDD is a severe and debilitating disorder that is associated with a growing global economic burden due to reduced workplace productivity along with increased healthcare resource utilization. Furthermore, depression markedly enhances the risk for suicide, mortality that is especially worrisome given that 30% of depressed individuals have an inadequate response to current antidepressants. This inadequacy of antidepressants necessitates the discovery of a better understanding of the pathobiology of MDD. Most current antidepressants work through monoamine neurotransmitters, and their relative efficacy in depression led to the now dated monoamine-deficiency hypothesis. The limited usefulness of antidepressants has led to a reinvigorated search for other pathologies in depression that might yield clues for the development of better drug treatments. In this regard, a strong association has been found between oxidative stress and MDD. Our lab recently found increased DNA oxidation and elevated poly(ADP)ribose polymerase (PARP1) gene expression in the brain from donors that had MDD at the time of death. Besides DNA damage repair, PARP1 mediates several downstream inflammatory effects that may contribute to pathology in MDD. In fact, our lab has demonstrated that PARP-1 inhibition produces antidepressant-like effects in rodents, suggesting that PARP-1 inhibitors hold promise as a novel antidepressant drug. While our lab had previously demonstrated elevated PARP1 gene expression in the frontal cortex in MDD, whether PARP1 protein levels were also increased in depression had not been verified. My thesis research was performed to determine whether PARP1 protein expression was also elevated in the brain in MDD. I studied primarily the hippocampus because it is part of the limbic (mediating emotion) system of the brain and because previous research has shown numerous other pathologies in the hippocampus. My study was carried out simultaneously as others in our lab were measuring PARP1 protein levels in frontal cortex in MDD. This latter work was important since the lab’s previous work had observed elevated PARP1 gene expression in the frontal cortex, rather than in the hippocampus which was not previously studied. Hippocampal and frontal cortical brain sections were cut from frozen blocks of both MDD and psychiatrically normal control brain donors for these studies. PARP1 protein levels were estimated by assisted-imaging software. The findings herein demonstrate that levels of PARP1 immunoreactivity are significantly elevated in the frontal cortex of MDD donors as compared to control donors. However, there was no change in PARP1 immunoreactivity in the hippocampus in MDD.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Withheld

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