Escitalopram and NHT normalized stress-induced anhedonia and molecular neuroadaptations in a mouse model of depression

Or Burstein, Motty Franko, Eyal Gale, Assaf Handelsman, Segev Barak, Shai Motsan, Alon Shamir, Roni Toledano, Omri Simhon, Yafit Hirshler, Gang Chen, Ravid Doron

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32 Scopus citations


Anhedonia is defined as a diminished ability to obtain pleasure from otherwise positive stimuli. Anxiety and mood disorders have been previously associated with dysregulation of the reward system, with anhedonia as a core element of major depressive disorder (MDD). The aim of the present study was to investigate whether stress-induced anhedonia could be prevented by treatments with escitalopram or novel herbal treatment (NHT) in an animal model of depression. Unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) was administered for 4 weeks on ICR outbred mice. Following stress exposure, animals were randomly assigned to pharmacological treatment groups (i.e., saline, escitalopram or NHT). Treatments were delivered for 3 weeks. Hedonic tone was examined via ethanol and sucrose preferences. Biological indices pertinent to MDD and anhedonia were assessed: namely, hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and striatal dopamine receptor D2 (Drd2) mRNA expression levels. The results indicate that the UCMS-induced reductions in ethanol or sucrose preferences were normalized by escitalopram or NHT. This implies a resemblance between sucrose and ethanol in their hedonic-eliciting property. On a neurobiological aspect, UCMS-induced reduction in hippocampal BDNF levels was normalized by escitalopram or NHT, while UCMS-induced reduction in striatal Drd2 mRNA levels was normalized solely by NHT. The results accentuate the association of stress and anhedonia, and pinpoint a distinct effect for NHT on striatal Drd2 expression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0188043
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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