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Liquiritigenin reverses depression-like behavior in unpredictable chronic mild stress-induced mice.Liquiritigenin inhibited PI3 K/Akt/mTOR pathway in unpredictable chronic mild stress-induced mice.Liquiritigenin improved BDNF/TrkB pathway in unpredictable chronic mild stress-induced mice.Major depression is a common long-lasting or recurrent psychiatric disease with high lifetime prevalence and high incidence of suicide. The main purpose of the current study was to verify whether liquiritigenin conferred an antidepressant-like effect on the depressive mouse model established by unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) and explore its possible mechanism. The results of depression-related behaviors including sucrose preference test (SPT), open field test (OFT), forced swimming test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST) indicated that both liquiritigenin (7.5 mg/kg, 15 mg/kg) and fluoxetine (20 mg/kg) dramatically improved the depression symptoms. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) revealed that treatment with liquiritigenin significantly reduced the concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines including interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1β and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in serum and hippocampus. Compared with the UCMS group, the administrations of liquiritigenin, increased levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione (GSH), catalase (CAT), and decreased Malondialdehyde (MDA) content. Meanwhile, glucocorticoids (GC) content was reduced in the liquiritigenin group, which suggested that liquiritigenin exhibiting the ameliorative effect on activated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stimulated with UCMS. Mice treated with liquiritigenin showed restored levels of neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE) and serotonin (5-HT). Western blot analysis displayed up-regulated expressions of p-phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3 K), p-Akt, p- mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), p-tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Thus, it was supposed that liquiritigenin might be useful for the treatment of chronic depression possibly through PI3 K/Akt/mTOR mediated BDNF/TrkB pathway.