Chronic administration of harmine elicits antidepressant-like effects and increases BDNF levels in rat hippocampus
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A growing body of evidence has pointed to the β-carboline harmine as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of major depression. The present study was aimed to evaluate behavioural and molecular effects of the chronic treatment with harmine and imipramine in rats. To this aim, rats were treated for 14 days once a day with harmine (5, 10 and 15 mg/kg) and imipramine (10, 20 and 30 mg/kg) and then subjected to the forced swimming and open-field tests. Harmine and imipramine, at all doses tested, reduced immobility time of rats compared with the saline group. Imipramine increased the swimming time at 20 and 30 mg/kg and harmine increased swimming time at all doses. The climbing time increased in rats treated with imipramine (10 and 30 mg/kg) and harmine (5 and 10 mg/kg), without affecting spontaneous locomotor activity. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) hippocampal levels were assessed in imipramine and harmine-treated rats by ELISA sandwich assay. Interestingly, chronic administration of harmine at the higher doses (10 and 15 mg/kg), but not imipramine, increased BDNF protein levels in rat hippocampus. Finally, these findings further support the hypothesis that harmine could bring about behavior and molecular effects, similar to antidepressants drugs.
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