Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2022 Jan 14. doi: 10.1007/s00213-021-06038-9. Online ahead of print.


RATIONALE: Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The corticolimbic system plays a critical role in the emotional and cognitive aspects of major depressive disorder. Owing to the unsatisfactory efficacy of conventional antidepressants, there is a need to explore novel therapies.

OBJECTIVES: The current study aimed to explore the antidepressant potential of thymoquinone, a natural compound with anti-inflammatory activity, and propose its underlying mechanism of action in the unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) mouse model.

METHODS: Coat state, forced swim test, elevated plus maze test, novelty suppressed feeding test and social interaction test were performed to quantify the behavioural shift induced by UCMS and the effect of thymoquinone and fluoxetine treatment. In addition, messenger RNA (mRNA) expression levels of inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α) and BDNF and NeuN were analysed by a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in the hippocampus and amygdala of experimental and control groups.

RESULTS: UCMS significantly deteriorated coat state. Thymoquinone reinstated the resignation behaviour and latency to feed affected by UCMS. UCMS induced an increase in inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α) in the hippocampus and amygdala, which was decreased by thymoquinone. UCMS caused an increase in BDNF and NeuN mRNA levels in the amygdala while a decrease in the hippocampus. This opposite effect on BDNF was also compensated by thymoquinone; however, thymoquinone did not significantly change Ki67 and NeuN mRNA levels in the hippocampus.

CONCLUSIONS: Thymoquinone restored the behavioural changes induced by UCMS. In addition, the antidepressant effect of thymoquinone is in line with changes in inflammatory parameters and changes in BDNF in the hippocampus and amygdala.

PMID:35029704 | DOI:10.1007/s00213-021-06038-9