Decreased brainstem and putamen sert binding potential in depressed suicide attempters using [11C]-zient pet imaging

Jonathon A. Nye, David Purselle, Christophe Plisson, Ronald J. Voll, Jeffrey S. Stehouwer, John R. Votaw, Clinton D. Kilts, Mark M. Goodman, Charles B. Nemeroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background Deficits in serotonergic neurotransmission have been implicated in the pathogenesis of depression and suicidality. The present study utilized a novel positron-emission tomography (PET) ligand to quantitate and compare brain regional serotonin transporter (SERT) binding potential in depressed patients with a past history of suicide attempts to that of healthy comparison subjects. Method We used [11C]-ZIENT PET to label SERT in the serotonergic cell body rich brainstem, and forebrain projection fields. Quantitative PET emission data from 21 adults (10 healthy controls and 11 drug-free patients with major depression) was used for group comparison. SERT binding potential (BP ND) in eight MRI-based brain regions of interest (ROI) were compared in high-resolution PET images. Results SERT binding potential was significantly decreased in the midbrain/pons (P =.029) and putamen (P =.04) of depressed patients with a past suicide attempt relative to comparison subjects. Forebrain SERT binding was also reduced in the patient sample, though these region effects did not survive a multiple comparison correction. Conclusion These results suggest that decreased availability of the brainstem and basal ganglia SERT represents a biomarker of depression and thus confirm and extend the role of dysregulation of brain serotonergic neurotransmission in the pathophysiology of depression and suicide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)902-907
Number of pages6
JournalDepression and anxiety
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • biological markers
  • brain imaging/neuroimaging
  • depression
  • measurement/psychometrics
  • suicide/self-harm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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