Blood concentrations of neopterin and biopterin in subjects with depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Daniele Cavaleri, Francesco Bartoli, Chiara A. Capogrosso, Pierluca Guzzi, Federico Moretti, Ilaria Riboldi, Błażej Misiak, Taro Kishi, Robert T. Rubin, Dietmar Fuchs, Cristina Crocamo, Giuseppe Carrà

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Pteridines, such as neopterin, biopterin, and tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), may be involved in depression pathophysiology owing to their links to immune-inflammatory response, oxidative and nitrosative stress, and monoaminergic transmission. Nonetheless, studies assessing pteridines in depression are inconsistent. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies comparing blood pteridine concentrations between subjects with depression and healthy controls (HCs). Methods: We searched Embase, MEDLINE, and PsycInfo for articles indexed through November 2021. Study quality was appraised, evaluating age and gender comparability between groups, sample representativeness, and methods to assess depression. Random-effects meta-analyses were carried out, generating pooled standardized mean differences (SMDs). Heterogeneity across studies was estimated using the I2 statistic. Results: Twenty-four studies, involving 3075 subjects, were included. Individuals with depression showed blood neopterin concentrations higher than HCs (k = 19; SMD = 0.36; p < 0.001) with moderate heterogeneity across studies (I2 = 58.2%). No moderating role of age, gender, or type of blood sample was found. Sensitivity analyses showed no impact of inconsistency and quality of studies on findings. Neopterin concentrations were higher among individuals with major depressive disorder compared to HCs (SMD = 0.44; p < 0.001). This held true also when considering only drug-free subjects (SMD = 0.68; p = 0.003). No differences in biopterin concentrations were found between subjects with depression and HCs (k = 5; SMD = –0.35; p = 0.086), though this result was limited by inconsistency of findings (I2 = 77.9%) and quality of studies. Finally, no sufficient data were available for a meta-analysis on BH4. Conclusions: As a whole, our work partly supports the hypothesis of an imbalance of pteridine metabolism in depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110633
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 10-01-2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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