Depression has recently become a serious problem in society worldwide. However, we lack appropriate therapeutic tools, since the causes of depression remain unclear. Degeneration of neuronal cells and a decrease in neurogenesis have been suggested recently as two of the factors responsible for depression-like behavior. Furthermore, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is also suggested to be an important factor in recovering from such behavior. We have previously demonstrated that the hydrophobic dipeptide leucyl-isoleucine (Leu-Ile) induces BDNF in cultured neuronal cells. We therefore investigated possible antidepressant-like effects of Leu-Ile in an animal model using the repeated forced swim test (FST). Mice were forced to swim for 6. min once a day in a cylinder containing water. The mice were treated with Leu-Ile s.c. or p.o. immediately after each FST. Five-day repeated Leu-Ile treatment significantly increased BDNF mRNA levels and activated the BDNF/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway in the hippocampi of the mice. While 2-week repeated FST increased immobility time, Leu-Ile treatment for 2 weeks offset this increase. In C57BL/6J-BDNF heterozygous knockout (BDNF(+/-)) mice, Leu-Ile failed to reduce the immobility time increased by repeated FST. We next investigated the extent of cell proliferation in the hippocampus as 5-bromo-2'-deoxy-uridine (BrdU) uptake into hippocampal cells. Repeated FST significantly reduced the number of BrdU-positive cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus, while this deficit was prevented by repeated Leu-Ile treatment. These results suggest that Leu-Ile has an antidepressant-like effect, at least in part by supporting cell proliferation through the BDNF signaling pathway.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience