Despite the extensive research conducted in recent decades, the molecular mechanisms underlying major depressive disorder (MDD) and relative evidence-based treatments remain unclear. Various hypotheses have been successively proposed, involving different biological systems. This narrative review aims to critically illustrate the main pathogenic hypotheses of MDD, ranging from the historical ones based on the monoaminergic and neurotrophic theories, through the subsequent neurodevelopmental, glutamatergic, GABAergic, inflammatory/immune and endocrine explanations, until the most recent evidence postulating a role for fatty acids and the gut microbiota. Moreover, the molecular effects of established both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches for MDD are also reviewed. Overall, the existing literature indicates that the molecular mechanisms described in the context of these different hypotheses, rather than representing alternative ones to each other, are likely to contribute together, often with reciprocal interactions, to the development of MDD and to the effectiveness of treatments, and points at the need for further research efforts in this field.
- Antidepressant drugs
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
- Electroconvulsive therapy
- Major depressive disorder
- Non-pharmacological treatments
ASJC Scopus subject areas