Leptin restores adult hippocampal neurogenesis in a chronic unpredictable stress model of depression and reverses glucocorticoid-induced inhibition of GSK-3β/β-catenin signaling

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Stress and glucocorticoid stress hormones inhibit neurogenesis, whereas antidepressants increase neurogenesis and block stress-induced decrease in neurogenesis. Our previous studies have shown that leptin, an adipocyte-derived hormone with antidepressant-like properties, promotes baseline neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus. This study aimed to determine whether leptin is able to restore suppression of neurogenesis in a rat chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) model of depression. Chronic treatment with leptin reversed the CUS-induced reduction of hippocampal neurogenesis and depression-like behaviors. Leptin treatment elicited a delayed long-lasting antidepressant-like effect in the forced swim behavioral despair test, and this effect was blocked by ablation of neurogenesis with X-irradiation. The functional isoform of the leptin receptor, LepRb, and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) were colocalized in hippocampal neural stem/progenitor cellsin vivoandin vitro.Leptin treatment reversed the GR agonist dexamethasone (DEX)-induced reduction of proliferation of cultured neural stem/progenitor cells from adult hippocampus. Further mechanistic analysis revealed that leptin and DEX converged on glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) and β-catenin. While DEX decreased Ser9 phosphorylation and increased Tyr216 phosphorylation of GSK-3β, leptin increased Ser9 phosphorylation and attenuated the effects of DEX at both Ser9 and Tyr216 phosphorylation sites of GSK-3β. Moreover, leptin increased total level and nuclear translocation of β-catenin, a primary substrate of GSK-3β and a key regulator in controlling hippocampal neural progenitor cell proliferation, and reversed the inhibitory effects of DEX on β-catenin. Taken together, our results suggest that adult neurogenesis is involved in the delayed long-lasting antidepressant-like behavioral effects of leptin, and leptin treatment counteracts chronic stress and glucocorticoid-induced suppression of hippocampal neurogenesis via activating the GSK-3β/β-catenin signaling pathway.

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