Major depression is associated with reduced hippocampal volume linked to stress and high glucocorticoid secretion. Glucocorticoid receptor-impaired (GR-i) mice, a transgenic model for affective disorders with hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis feedback control deficit, were used to assess the antidepressant-like effects of the mixed melatonin receptor agonist/5-HT2C receptor antagonist, agomelatine, compared to the selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), fluoxetine, on hippocampal neurogenesis, GR and BDNF expression and antidepressant-responsive behaviour (tail suspension test, TST). GR-i and paired wild-type (WT) mice were given acute or chronic (21 d) treatment with these drugs. Both hippocampal cell proliferation and BDNF mRNA expression were down-regulated in GR-i mice, and these alterations were reversed by chronic agomelatine and fluoxetine treatments, whereas GR mRNA down-regulation was reversed only by agomelatine. Furthermore, chronic agomelatine, but not fluoxetine, increased survival of newly formed cells in the ventral part of the hippocampus without changing their phenotypic differentiation into neurons. In the TST, the enhanced immobility of GR-i mice was reduced to WT level by acute (but not chronic) fluoxetine and chronic (but not acute) agomelatine. These results indicate that agomelatine reversed the neuroplastic changes and helpless behaviour associated with HPA axis alterations in GR-i mice, suggesting neurobiological and behavioural effects mostly similar to those typically seen with classical antidepressants such as fluoxetine, but through clearly distinct mechanisms.