The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Research Article

Protein kinases A and C in post-mortem prefrontal cortex from persons with major depression and normal controls

Richard C. Sheltona1 c1, D. Hal Maniera1 and David A. Lewisa2

a1 Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

a2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA


Major depression (MDD) is a common and potentially life-threatening condition. Widespread neurobiological abnormalities suggest abnormalities in fundamental cellular mechanisms as possible physiological mediators. Cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase [also known as protein kinase A (PKA)] and protein kinase C (PKC) are important components of intracellular signal transduction cascades that are linked to G-coupled receptors. Previous research using both human peripheral and post-mortem brain tissue specimens suggests that a subset of depressed patients exhibit reduced PKA and PKC activity, which has been associated with reduced levels of specific protein isoforms. Prior research also suggests that specific clinical phenotypes, particularly melancholia and suicide, may be particularly associated with low activity. This study examined PKA and PKC protein levels in human post-mortem brain tissue samples from persons with MDD (n=20) and age- and sex-matched controls (n=20). Specific PKA subunits and PKC isoforms were assessed using Western blot analysis in post-mortem samples from Brodmann area 10, which has been implicated in reinforcement and reward mechanisms. The MDD sample exhibited significantly lower protein expression of PKA regulatory Iα (RIα), PKA catalytic α (Cα) and Cβ, PKCβ1, and PKCε relative to controls. The melancholic subgroup showed low PKA RIα and PKA Cβ, while the portion of the MDD sample who died by suicide had low PKA RIα and PKA Cα. These data continue to support the significance of abnormalities of these two key kinases, and suggest linkages between molecular endophenotypes and specific clinical phenotypes.

(Received April 16 2008)

(Reviewed June 13 2008)

(Revised February 18 2009)

(Accepted February 23 2009)

(Online publication July 02 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: R. C. Shelton, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, 1500 21st Avenue, South, Suite 2200, Nashville, TN 37212, USA. Tel.: 1-615-352-3847 Fax: 1-615-343-7868 Email: