The brain cAMP regulating system and its downstream elements play a pivotal role in the therapeutic effects of antidepressants. We previously reported the increase in activities of phosphodiesterase 4, a major phosphodiesterase isozyme hydrolyzing cAMP, in the frontal cortex and hippocampus of learned helplessness rats, an animal model for depression. The present study was undertaken to examine the combination of effects of rolipram, a phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitor, with imipramine, a typical tricyclic antidepressant, on depressive behavior in learned helplessness rats. Concurrently, cAMP-response element (CRE)-binding activity and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels related to the therapeutic effects of antidepressants were determined. Repeated administration of imipramine (1.25-10 mg/kg, i.p.) or rolipram (1.25 mg/kg, i.p.) reduced the number of escape failures in learned helplessness rats. Imipramine could not completely ameliorate the escape behavior to a level similar to that of non-stressed rats even at 10 mg/kg. However, repeated coadministration of rolipram with imipramine (1.25 and 2.5 mg/kg, respectively) almost completely eliminated the escape failures in learned helplessness rats. The reduction of CRE-binding activities and BDNF levels in the frontal cortex or hippocampus in learned helplessness rats were ameliorated by treatment with imipramine or rolipram alone. CRE-binding activities and/or BDNF levels of the frontal cortex and hippocampus were significantly increased by treatment with a combination of rolipram and imipramine compared to those in imipramine-treated rats. These results indicated that coadministration of phosphodiesterase type 4 inhibitors with antidepressants may be more effective for depression therapy and suggest that elevation of the cAMP signal transduction pathway is involved in the antidepressive effects.
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
- Learned helplessness
- Phosphodiesterase 4
- cAMP response element
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