Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common mental disease, but with an unknown etiology. Antidepressants are the main biological treatment for MDD. However, current antidepressive agents have a slow onset of effect and a substantial proportion of MDD patients do not clinically improve, despite maximal medication. Thus, the exploration for new antidepressants with novel strategies may help to develop faster and more effective antidepressant agents. Studies in the recent decades have demonstrated that antidepressants increase central brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and activating the BDNF-signaling pathway may play an important role in their therapeutic mechanism. Cysteamine is a natural product of cells and constitutes the terminal region of the CoA molecule. Recent work has found that cysteamine and a related agent, cystamine, have neuroprotective effects in Huntington's disease (HD) mice, through enhancing central BDNF levels. Furthermore, cystamine or cysteamine injection could increase serum BDNF levels in wild-type mice as well as HD mice. Since activation of the BDNF-dependent pathway plays an important role in the mechanism of antidepressant therapeutic action, cystamine or its derivatives could have potential antidepressant therapeutic effects. Among these agents, pantethine may be one of the most promising agents. It is a naturally occurring compound which can be administered orally with negligible side effects, and is metabolized to cysteamine. Further evaluation of the therapeutic and toxic effects of these cysteamine-related antidepressant agents in MDD animal models is needed before any clinical application.
Tsai SJ. Cysteamine-related agents could be potential antidepressants through increasing central BDNF levels. Med Hypotheses. 2006 June Department of Psychiatry, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan.