Prenatal IL-6 levels and activation of the tryptophan to kynurenine pathway are associated with depressive but not anxiety symptoms across the perinatal and the post-partum period in a low-risk sample

Sarah Nazzari, Massimo Molteni, Flavia Valtorta, Stefano Comai, Alessandra Frigerio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Depression and anxiety symptoms are highly prevalent among women during pregnancy and post-partum. Previous studies suggest that one of the pathophysiological underpinnings could be an enhanced metabolism of tryptophan (Trp) into kynurenine (Kyn) due to increased inflammation. However, the longitudinal changes in the Kyn pathway and the complex interplay with inflammation and stress in women with perinatal depressive or anxiety symptoms are incompletely understood. We examined a cohort of healthy women at 34–36 gestational weeks. One hundred and ten women were assessed for salivary cortisol and 97 participants were also assessed for serum levels of Trp, Kyn and Interleukin 6 (IL-6). Women filled in two screening questionnaires for depressive (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)) and anxiety (State Trait Anxiety Inventory subscale (STAI-S)) symptoms at 34–36 gestational weeks, delivery, 3 and 12 months postpartum. Unexpectedly, lower prenatal Kyn levels were associated with higher depressive symptoms in late pregnancy. Furthermore, prenatal Trp levels and the Kyn/Trp ratio moderate the association between IL-6 levels and depressive symptoms during the perinatal and the post-partum period. We found no interactions between Trp and Kyn biomarkers and cortisol on depressive symptoms. The observed associations were more robustly found for depressive symptoms, whereas weak and non-significant effects were found for the trajectory of anxiety symptoms. Overall, our data support the involvement of the Trp to Kyn pathway and inflammation in the course of depressive but not anxiety symptoms in women from late pregnancy until one-year post-partum, providing new evidence on the mechanisms regulating emotions during pregnancy and after delivery in a low-risk sample.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Volume89
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Biomarkers
  • Cortisol
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Inflammation
  • Kynurenine
  • Postpartum
  • Pregnancy
  • Tryptophan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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