Increased diurnal plasma concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone in depressed patients

Isabella Heuser*, Michael Deuschle, Peter Luppa, Ulrich Schweiger, Harald Standhardt, Bettina Weber

*Corresponding author for this work
132 Citations (Scopus)


Activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical system is a biological core symptom of depression. Although the regulation of cortisol secretion is well studied in this condition, there is no information about the diurnal activity of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) secretion. Therefore, we studied 24-h DHEA plasma concentrations (every 30 min) in severely depressed patients (n = 26) and healthy controls (n = 33). We found depression to significantly increase diurnal minimal and mean DHEA plasma concentrations, whereas there was no effect on the diurnal maximal plasma concentration and the diurnal amplitude of DHEA. In particular, we found a parallel increase in mean DHEA (5.8 ± 3.6 vs. 3.4 ± 1.9 nmol/L; P < 0.003), cortisol (286 ± 65 vs. 184 ± 29 nmol/L; P < 0.0001) and ACTH (7.14 ± 2.06 vs. 5.72 ± 1.36 pmol/L; P < 0.002) plasma concentrations. The novel finding of parallel increases in diurnal DHEA and cortisol plasma concentrations in depressed patients has important implications for the regulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical system in conditions of chronic stress and for the rationale of DHEA treatment in depressed patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)3130-3133
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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