Antidepressant effects of nicotine in an animal model of depression
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Epidemiological studies indicate a high incidence of cigarette smoking among depressed individuals. Moreover, individuals with a history of depression have a much harder time giving up smoking. It has been postulated that smoking may reflect an attempt at self-medication with nicotine by these individuals. Although some animal and human studies suggest that nicotine may act as an antidepressant, further verification of this hypothesis and involvement of nicotinic cholinergic system in depressive symptoms is required. Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) rats have been proposed as an animal model of depression. These rats, selectively bred for their hyperresponsiveness to cholinergic stimulation, show an exaggerated immobility in the forced swim test compared to their control Flinders Resistant Line (FRL) rats. Acute or chronic (14 days) administration of nicotine (0.4 mg/kg SC) significantly improved the performance of the FSL but not the FRL rats in the swim test. The effects of nicotine on swim test were dissociable from its effects on locomotor activity. Moreover, the FSL rats had significantly higher [3H]cytisine binding (selective for the α4β2 nicotinic receptor subtype) but not [125I]alpha-bungarotoxin binding (selective for the α7 subtype) in the frontal cortex, striatum, midbrain and colliculi compared to FRL rats. These data strongly implicate the involvement of central nicotinic receptors in the depressive characteristics of the FSL rats, and suggest that nicotinic agonists may have therapeutic benefits in depressive disorders.
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