Antidepressant and pro-neurogenic effects of agmatine in a mouse model of stress induced by chronic exposure to corticosterone

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Agmatine is an endogenous neuromodulator that has been shown to have beneficial effects in the central nervous system, including antidepressant-like effects in animals. In this study, we investigated the ability of agmatine (0.1 mg/kg, p.o.) and the conventional antidepressant fluoxetine (10 mg/kg, p.o.) to reverse the behavioral effects and morphological alterations in the hippocampus of mice exposed to chronic corticosterone (20 mg/kg, p.o.) treatment for a period of 21 days as a model of stress and depressive-like behaviors. Chronic corticosterone treatment increased the immobility time in the tail suspension test (TST), but did not cause anhedonic-like and anxiety-related behaviors, as assessed with the splash test and the open field test (OFT), respectively. Of note, the depressive-like behaviors induced by corticosterone were accompanied by a decrease in hippocampal cell proliferation, although no changes in hippocampal neuronal differentiation were observed. Our findings provide evidence that, similarly to fluoxetine, agmatine was able to reverse the corticosterone-induced depressive-like behaviors in the TST as well as the deficits in hippocampal cell proliferation. Additionally, fluoxetine but not agmatine, increased hippocampal differentiation. Agmatine, similar to fluoxetine, was capable of increasing both dendritic arborization and length in the entire dentate hippocampus, an effect more evident in the ventral portion of the hippocampus, as assessed with the modified Sholl analysis. Altogether, our results suggest that the increase in hippocampal proliferation induced by agmatine may contribute, at least in part, to the antidepressant-like response of this compound in this mouse model of stress induced by chronic exposure to corticosterone.

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