We have shown that serotonin transporter (SERT) clustering in blood lymphocytes is altered in major depression and correlates with pharmacological therapeutic responses measured with the Hamilton scale. In the present report, we extend these results to the self-assessment anhedonia scale, as anhedonia is a cardinal symptom of major depression that is difficult to treat with first-line antidepressants.
We collected blood samples from 38 untreated depression patients at the time of enrolment and 8 weeks after pharmacological treatment. We used the self-assessment anhedonia scale to evaluate anhedonia symptoms before and after treatment. We also used quantitative immunocytochemistry to measure SERT clusters in blood lymphocytes.
Evaluation of the distribution of SERT clusters size in the plasma membrane of lymphocytes identified two subpopulations of naive depression patients: Depression I (D-I) and Depression II (D-II). While naïve D-I and D-II patients initially showed similar anhedonia scores, D-II patients showed a good response in anhedonia symptoms after 8 weeks of psychopharmacological treatment, whereas D-I patients failed to show any improvement. Psychopharmacological treatment also induced an increase in the number of SERT clusters in lymphocytes in the D-II group, and this increase correlated with the improvement in anhedonia symptoms.
SERT clustering in peripheral lymphocytes can be used to identify patient response to antidepressant therapy as ascertained by anhedonia scores.