Females with depression had the highest levels of expression of several glutamate receptor genes, perhaps making them more prone to depression. In addition, three of these genes were found to be elevated in both male and female patients who had died by suicide.
"Our data indicate that females with major depression who are at high risk of suicide may have the greatest antidepressant benefit from drugs that act on the glutamate system, such as ketamine," author said. The study also suggests new glutamate receptor targets for development of treatments for depression and identifies biochemical markers that could be used to assess suicide risk.
Recent studies found that a low dose of the drug ketamine, which alters glutamate system activity, can rapidly eliminate depression in two-thirds of patients who do not respond to conventional antidepressants. Conventional antidepressants target the monoamine systems, which secrete the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine.