Genistein, a principal isoflavone property of soybeans, possesses multiple pharmacological activities such as neuroprotection. Recently, it was reported that genistein exerted antidepressant-like effects in animal models, but the mechanism of action remains ambiguous. The purpose of this study was to investigate the antidepressant-like effect of genistein in mice and explore the underlying mechanism(s), using two mouse models of depression, i.e. forced swim test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST). Chronic, but not acute (single dose), genistein treatment (5, 15 or 45 mg/kg, p.o., once per day for three weeks) exerted dose-dependently antidepressant-like effect in mice, concomitant with escalated levels of brain monoamines and suppressed monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity. Chemical depletion of brain serotonin by PCPA abrogated the antidepressant-like action of genistein, but it was not the case for ablation of NA by DSP-4. Moreover, the anti-depression by genistein was preferentially counteracted by co-administration of 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY-100635, suggesting a pivotal role for 5-HT system coupled with 5-HT1A receptors in mediating such genistein anti-depression. This point was further validated by the fact that genistein action was potentiated by co-treatment with 8-OH-DPAT, a selective 5-HT1A receptor agonist. Collectively, these findings confirm that chronic genistein administration to mice engenders antidepressant-like efficacy evidenced by lessened behavioral despair. Serotonergic system that preferentially couples with 5-HT1A receptors may be critically responsible for the present genistein anti-depression.