Ghrelin alleviates anxiety- and depression-like behaviors induced by chronic unpredictable mild stress in rodents

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Abstract

As a regulator of food intake, ghrelin also plays a key role in mood disorders. Previous studies reported that acute ghrelin administration defends against depressive symptoms of chronic stress. However, the effects of long-term ghrelin on rodents under chronic stress hasn’t been revealed. In this study, we found chronic peripheral administration of ghrelin (5 nmol/kg/day for 2 weeks, i.p.) could alleviate anxiety- and depression-like behaviors induced by chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS). The depression-like behaviors were assessed by the forced swimming test (FST), and anxiety-like behaviors were assessed by the open field test (OFT) and the elevated plus maze test (EPM). Meanwhile, we observed that peripheral acylated ghrelin, together with gastral and hippocampal ghrelin prepropeptide mRNA level, were significantly up-regulated in CUMS mice. Besides, the increased protein level of growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR) in hippocampus were also detected. These results suggested that the endogenous ghrelin/GHSR pathway activated by CUMS plays a role in homeostasis. Further results showed that central treatment of ghrelin (10 μg/rat/day for 2 weeks, i.c.v.) or GHRP-6 (the agonist of GHSR, 10 μg/rat/day for 2 weeks, i.c.v.) significantly alleviated the depression-like behaviors induced by CUMS in FST and sucrose preference test (SPT). Based on these results, we concluded that central GHSR is involved in the antidepressant-like effect of exogenous ghrelin treatment, and ghrelin/GHSR may have the inherent neuromodulatory properties against depressive symptoms.

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