Neurochemical Research

, Volume 43, Issue 8, pp 1519–1528 | Cite as

Honokiol Exerts Antidepressant Effects in Rats Exposed to Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress by Regulating Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor Level and Hypothalamus–Pituitary–Adrenal Axis Activity

  • Canmao Wang
  • Danna Gan
  • Jingang Wu
  • Minhui Liao
  • Xinghuan Liao
  • Weipeng AiEmail author
Original Paper


Honokiol (HNK), the main active component of Magnolia officinalis, has shown a variety of pharmacological activities. In the present study, we measured the antidepressant-like effects of HNK in a rat model of chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) and explored its possible mechanisms. The antidepressant-like effects of HNK were assessed in rats by an open field test (OFT), sucrose preference test (SPT) and forced swimming test (FST). Then, serum levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone (CORT) and hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and glucocorticoid receptor α (GRα) levels were assessed to explore the possible mechanisms. We identified that HNK treatment (2, 4, and 8 mg/kg) alleviated the CUMS-induced behavioural deficits. Treatment with HNK also normalized the CUMS-induced hyperactivity of the limbic hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, as indicated by reduced CRH, ACTH and CORT serum levels. In addition, HNK increased the expression of GRα (mRNA and protein) and BDNF (mRNA and protein) in the hippocampus. These data confirmed the antidepressant-like effects of HNK, which may be related to its normalizing the function of the HPA axis and increasing the BDNF level in the hippocampus.


Honokiol Antidepressant Chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis 



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PharmacyShenzhen University General HospitalShenzhenChina
  2. 2.Department of PharmacyShenzhen Hospital, Southern Medical UniversityShenzhenChina
  3. 3.The Second People’s Hospital of China Three Gorges UniversityYichangChina

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