Increased inflammatory activation might only be present in a subgroup of depressed individuals in which immune processes are especially relevant to disease development. We aimed to analyze demographic, depression, and trauma characteristics of major depressive disorder (MDD) patients with regard to inflammatory monocyte gene expression. Fifty-six naturalistically treated MDD patients (32 +/- 12 years) and 57 healthy controls (HC; 31 +/- 11 years) were analyzed by the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS) and by the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). We determined the expression of 38 inflammatory and immune activation genes including the glucocorticoid receptor (GR)alpha and GR beta genes in purified CD14(+) monocytes using quantitative-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Monocyte gene expression was age-dependent, particularly in MOD patients. Increased monocyte gene expression and decreased GR alpha/beta ratio were only present in MDD patients aged >= 28 years. Post hoc analyses of monocyte immune activation in patients <28 years showed two subgroups: a subgroup with a severe course of depression (recurrent type, onset <15 years) - additionally characterized by panic/arousal symptoms and childhood trauma - that had a monocyte gene expression similar to HC, and a second subgroup with a milder course of the disorder (73% first episode depression, onset >= 15 years) - additionally characterized by the absence of panic symptoms - that exhibited a strongly reduced inflammatory monocyte activation compared to HC. In conclusion, monocyte immune activation was not uniformly raised in MDD patients but was increased only in patients of 28 years and older. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.