Original Investigation


, Volume 213, Issue 2, pp 555-562

First online:

Diminished brain 5-HT transporter binding in major depression: a positron emission tomography study with [11C]DASB

  • Sudhakar SelvarajAffiliated withUniversity Department of Psychiatry, Warneford HospitalMedical Research Council Cyclotron Unit, Hammersmith Hospital
  • , Naga Venkatesha MurthyAffiliated withGSK CIC, Imperial College London
  • , Zubin BhagwagarAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Yale University
  • , Subrata K. BoseAffiliated withMedical Research Council Cyclotron Unit, Hammersmith Hospital
  • , Rainer HinzAffiliated withWolfson Molecular Imaging Centre, University of Manchester
  • , Paul M. GrasbyAffiliated withMedical Research Council Cyclotron Unit, Hammersmith Hospital
  • , Philip J. CowenAffiliated withUniversity Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital Email author 

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The serotonin transporter (5-HTT) plays a critical role in the regulation of serotonin neurotransmission and has been implicated in the pathophysiology of major depression. In a previous positron emission tomography study, we found no difference in brain 5-HTT binding between unmedicated recovered depressed patients and healthy controls.


This study aims to assess brain 5-HTT binding in a group of unmedicated acutely depressed patients in comparison to healthy controls.


We studied 5-HTT binding using [11C]DASB in conjunction with positron emission tomography in 12 medication-free depressed patients with a mean duration of illness of about 1 year and 24 healthy controls.


The depressed patients had lowered 5-HTT binding in several brain regions including brain stem, thalamus, caudate, putamen, anterior cingulate cortex and frontal cortex.


These results suggest that diminished availability of the 5-HTT in the brain may be a state marker of acute depression. Alternatively, low 5-HTT binding may delineate a group of depressed patients with a poor long-term prognosis.


Serotonin Serotonin transporter [11C]DASB Depression Mood disorder PET