Examining the effect of estradiol on mood symptoms during perimenopause through immune gene expression

2024 Award: $44,745

Depression can increase during the transition to menopause (“perimenopause”), and hormonal treatments can help alleviate depressive symptoms. However, the mechanisms of how these treatments work and who they work for remain unclear. In this study, we propose the immune system may play a critical role in depressive symptoms and their treatment.

Need/Problem: Rates of depression rise during the transition to menopause (“perimenopause”). Hormone treatments with estradiol can be helpful, but they are not effective or feasible for everyone. More research is needed to understand how and why estradiol works to better inform novel treatment approaches.

Grant Summary: We will study expression of immune-related genes in a sample of perimenopausal women with depressive symptoms before and after three weeks of estradiol treatment or placebo.

Goals and Projected Outcomes: The short-term objective of the current proposal is to characterize immune gene expression related to mood symptoms and changes in immune gene expression following three weeks of ET in a transdiagnostic sample of perimenopausal women. Data from this study will support a future NIH proposal to investigate brain-related correlates of immune alteration and clinical outcomes in perimenopause.

Erin Bondy, PhD

Grant Details: Risk for new-onset depression rises during perimenopause. Treatment with reproductive hormones like estradiol can be helpful for some, but the specific mechanisms of how estradiol alleviates depression remains unclear. In this project, we propose to investigate how differential expression of immune-related genes is associated with depressive symptoms and their treatment with three weeks of estradiol compared to placebo. We will examine immune function as a novel mechanism of action through which estradiol exerts its antidepressant effects. Findings from this study will inform novel treatment targets and clarify biological systems implicated in perimenopausal depression.