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Genetic and environmental factors interact in the development of major depressive disorder (MDD). While neurobiological correlates have only partially been elucidated, altered levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-like immunoreactivity (LI) in animal models and in the cerebrospinal fluid of depressed patients were reported, suggesting that CGRP may be involved in the pathophysiology and/or be a trait marker of MDD. However, changes in CGRP brain levels resulting from interactions between genetic and environmental risk factors and the response to antidepressant treatment have not been explored.
We therefore superimposed maternal separation (MS) onto a genetic rat model (Flinders-sensitive and -resistant lines, FSL/FRL) of depression, treated these rats with antidepressants (escitalopram and nortriptyline) and measured CGRP-LI in selected brain regions.
CGRP was elevated in the frontal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala (but not in the hypothalamus) of FSL rats. However, MS did not significantly alter levels of this peptide. Likewise, there were no significant interactions between the genetic and environmental factors. Most importantly, neither escitalopram nor nortriptyline significantly altered brain CGRP levels.
Our data demonstrate that increased brain levels of CGRP are present in a well-established rat model of depression. Given that antidepressants have virtually no effect on the brain level of this peptide, our study indicates that further research is needed to evaluate the functional role of CGRP in the FSL model for depression.
There is a growing interest in the role of kynurenine pathway and tryptophan metabolites in the pathophysiology of depression. In the present study, the metabolism of tryptophan along the kynurenine pathway was analysed in a rat model of depression.
Kynurenic acid (KYNA) and 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK) were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) in prefrontal cortex (PFC) and frontal cortex (FC) in a rat model of depression, the Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) and their controls, the Flinders Resistant Line (FRL) rats. In addition, KYNA was also measured in hippocampus, striatum and cerebellum.
KYNA levels were reduced in the PFC of FSL rats compared with FRL rats, but did not differ with regard to the FC, hippocampus, striatum or cerebellum. 3-HK levels in PFC and FC, representing the activity of the microglial branch of the kynurenine pathway, did not differ between the FSL and FRL strains.
Our results suggest an imbalanced metabolism of the kynurenine pathway in the PFC of FSL rats.
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