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Nortriptyline mediates behavioral effects without affecting hippocampal cytogenesis in a genetic rat depression model

Petersén Å, Wörtwein G, Gruber SH, El-Khoury A and Mathé AA.

Neuroscience Letters 451(2): 148-151 (2009)


A prevailing hypothesis is that neurogenesis is reduced in depression and that the common mechanism for antidepressant treatments is to increase it in adult hippocampus. Reduced neurogenesis has been shown in healthy rats exposed to stress, but it has not yet been demonstrated in depressed patients. Emerging studies now indicate that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can, exert behavioral effects without affecting neurogenesis in mice. Here we extend our previous findings demonstrating that the number of BrdU positive cells in hippocampus was significantly higher in a rat model of depression, the Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) compared to the control strain the Flinders Resistant Line (FRL). We also show that chronic treatment with the tricyclic antidepressant nortriptyline exerts behavioral effects in the Porsolt forced swim test without affecting hippocampal cell proliferation in the FSL model. These results strengthen the arguments against hypothesis of neurogenesis being necessary in etiology of depression and as requisite for effects of antidepressants, and illustrate the importance of using a disease model and not healthy animals to assess effects of potential therapies for major depressive disorder.