Abbreviations used: FSL, Flinders sensitive line; 5-HIAA, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid; 5-HT, serotonin; REM, rapid eye movement.
Abstract: Although alterations in serotonin levels and neurotransmission are associated with depressive disorders and effective antidepressant therapy, the exact cause of these disorders and the mode of action of anti-depressant drugs are poorly understood. In a genetic rat model of depression [Flinders sensitive line (FSL) rats], deviations from normal serotonin (5-HT) levels and metabolism in specific brain regions were determined. The levels of 5-HT and its metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), in tissue punches of various brain regions were quantitated simultaneously with an HPLC apparatus coupled to an electrochemical detector. In the nucleus accumbens, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and hypothalamus of FSL rats, the levels of 5-HT and 5-HIAA were three- to eightfold higher than in control Sprague-Dawley rats. Significant differences in the levels of 5-HT and 5-HIAA in the striatum and raphe nucleus of the “depressed” and normal rats were not observed. After chronic treatment with the antidepressant desipramine (5 mg/kg/day for 18 days), the immobility score in a swim test, as a measure of a behavioral deficit, and 5-HT levels of the FSL rats became normalized, but these parameters in the control rats did not change. The [5-HIAA]/[5-HT] ratio was lower in the nucleus accumbens and hypothalamus of the FSL than in the control rats, and increased after desipramine treatment only in the nucleus accumbens of the FSL rats. These results indicate that the behavioral deficits expressed in the FSL model for depression correlate with increased 5-HT levels in specific limbic sites and suggest the FSL rats as a novel model for clarification of the molecular mechanism of clinically used antidepressant drugs.