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Altered circulatory levels of miR-128, BDNF, cortisol and shortened telomeres in patients with type 2 diabetes and depression

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Several studies have reported the role of biomarkers either in diabetes or depression. The present study is aimed at profiling the circulating levels of miR-128, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), cortisol and telomere length in patients with type 2 diabetes with and without depression compared to individuals with normal glucose tolerance.


Study subjects (n = 160) were recruited from an ongoing epidemiological study in southern India. Non-diabetic and diabetic individuals were diagnosed as per the World Health Organization criteria. Depression score was derived using PHQ-12 questionnaire. Real-time quantitative PCR and ELISA methodologies were used to quantify the biomarkers.


Circulatory levels of miR-128 and cortisol were significantly (p < 0.05) increased with decreased BDNF levels and shortened telomeres in T2DM patients with or without depression compared to NGT individuals. T2DM patients with depression had the highest levels of miR-128 and cortisol and lowest levels of BDNF and telomere length compared to other groups. Pearson correlation analysis showed miR-128 levels were negatively associated with BDNF, telomere length and HDL cholesterol and positively correlated with cortisol, depression score, poor glycemic control and insulin resistance. Regression analysis confirmed that miR-128 was significantly associated with depression score even after adjusted for several confounding factors. However, this association was lost when adjusted for cortisol or telomere length.


Patients with type 2 diabetes and depression exhibited increased circulatory levels of miR-128 and serum cortisol and decreased levels of BDNF and shortened telomeres. These neuroendocrine signatures were more markedly altered in those with combined diabetes and depression.

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Authors thankfully acknowledge the grant support from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as well as an extramural grant support of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Authors also thank Dr.Radha Shankar & Dr.Latha Satish for their domain expert inputs.

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Correspondence to Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam.

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All authors have no relevant conflict of interest to disclose.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional ethics committee (IEC) of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation/national medical guidelines and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

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Informed consent was obtained from all the study participants for being included in the study which has done according to the national guidelines of ethical standards and in keeping with Helsinki Declaration of 2008 (ICH GCP).

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Prabu, P., Poongothai, S., Shanthirani, C.S. et al. Altered circulatory levels of miR-128, BDNF, cortisol and shortened telomeres in patients with type 2 diabetes and depression. Acta Diabetol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00592-020-01486-9

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  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • MicroRNA
  • Telomere shortening
  • BDNF
  • Cortisol