Pannexin-1 channel dysfunction in the medial prefrontal cortex mediates depressive-like behaviors induced by chronic social defeat stress and administration of mefloquine in mice

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Mefloquine (MFQ) is widely used for the treatment of malaria clinically. Apart from antimalarial effect, psychiatric side effects such as depression and anxiety of MFQ have been reported. Interestingly, MFQ is also known as a broad-spectrum pannexin-1 (Panx1) inhibitor. Panx1 is a new gap junction channel in the brain which mediates efflux of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Although exogenous ATP has been known to produce a potential antidepressant-like effect, little is known about the role of Panx1 in pathophysiology of depression, especially the depression induced by administration of MFQ. Here, we used the chronic social defeat stress (CSDS) model and found a decrease in the expression and function of Panx1 in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of susceptible mice. Furthermore, pharmacological blockade of Panx1 in the mPFC with carbenoxolone (CBX) (100 mM) or 10Panx (100 μM) was sufficient to induce depressive-like behaviors and increase vulnerability to stress in mice, which were prevented by preconditioning with ATP (25 μM). Finally, systemic and intral-mPFC injection of MFQ both inhibited the activity of Panx1 and induced depressive-like and anxiety behaviors in mice with sub-threshold social defeat stress. Indeed, the behavioral abnormalities induced by MFQ were prevented by preconditioning with ATP in the mPFC. In conclusion, our study demonstrates a role of the Panx1 channel in chronic stress and MFQ-induced depressive-like and anxiety behaviors, which may provide a novel molecular mechanism for psychiatric side effects of MFQ.

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