, Volume 232, Issue 16, pp 2921–2938 | Cite as

Ozone exposure of Flinders Sensitive Line rats is a rodent translational model of neurobiological oxidative stress with relevance for depression and antidepressant response

  • Mmalebuso L. Mokoena
  • Brian H. Harvey
  • Francois Viljoen
  • Susanna M. Ellis
  • Christiaan B. Brink
Original Investigation



Major depression has been associated with higher levels of air pollution that in turn leads to neurodegeneration via increased oxidative stress. There is a need for suitable translational animal models to study the role of oxidative stress in depression and antidepressant action.


Considering the gene X environment hypothesis of depression, the present study investigated the effect of chronic ozone inhalation on depression and anxiety-related behavior, cognition, and brain markers of oxidative stress in the Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) rat. In addition, response to the antioxidant melatonin, and the antidepressants desipramine or escitalopram, was assessed.


Rats were exposed to ozone (0.0 or 0.3 parts per million (ppm)) per inhalation for 4 h daily for a period of 15 days, while simultaneously receiving saline or the above-mentioned drugs.


The data indicate that chronic ozone inhalation induced memory impairment, anxiety and depression-like effects, reduced cortical and hippocampal superoxide dismutase and catalase activity, and compromised central monoamine levels similar to that noted in depression. Moreover, the behavioral and neurochemical effects of melatonin, desipramine, and escitalopram were mostly attenuated in the presence of ozone.


Thus, genetically susceptible individuals exposed to high levels of oxidative stress are at higher risk of developing mood and/or an anxiety disorders, showing greater redox imbalance and altered behavior. These animals are also more resistant to contemporary antidepressant treatment. The presented model provides robust face, construct, and predictive validity, suitable for studying neuronal oxidative stress in depression, antidepressant action and mechanisms to prevent neuronal oxidative stress.


Ozone Oxidative stress Flinders Sensitive Line Rats Depression Melatonin Desipramine Escitalopram Animal model 



The South African National Research Foundation (NRF) (Grant no. IFR2011033000023) is acknowledged for financial support. This article is dedicated to the first author and PhD student, Lilly Mokoena, who died tragically and prematurely after submission of the manuscript. She distinguished herself early in her career at both national and international level in pharmacology circles, being a brilliant upcoming young scientist and compassionate colleague and friend.

Conflict of interest

There is no actual or potential conflict of interest in relation to this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mmalebuso L. Mokoena
    • 1
  • Brian H. Harvey
    • 2
  • Francois Viljoen
    • 1
  • Susanna M. Ellis
    • 3
  • Christiaan B. Brink
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Pharmacology, School of PharmacyNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre of Excellence for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Health SciencesNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa
  3. 3.Statistical Consultation Services, Centre for Business Mathematics and InformaticsNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa

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