Changed Synaptic Plasticity in Neural Circuits of Depressive-Like and Escitalopram-Treated Rats

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Xiao-Li Li
  • Yong-Gui Yuan
  • Hua Xu
  • Di Wu
  • Wei-Gang Gong
  • Lei-Yu Geng
  • Fang-Fang Wu
  • Lin Xu
  • Zhi-Jun Zhang


BACKGROUND: Although progress has been made in the detection and characterization of neural plasticity in depression, it has not been fully understood in individual synaptic changes in the neural circuits under chronic stress and antidepressant treatment.

METHODS: Using electron microscopy and Western-blot analyses, the present study quantitatively examined the changes in the Gray's Type I synaptic ultrastructures and the expression of synapse-associated proteins in the key brain regions of rats' depressive-related neural circuit after chronic unpredicted mild stress and/or escitalopram administration. Meanwhile, their depressive behaviors were also determined by several tests.

RESULTS: The Type I synapses underwent considerable remodeling after chronic unpredicted mild stress, which resulted in the changed width of the synaptic cleft, length of the active zone, postsynaptic density thickness, and/or synaptic curvature in the subregions of medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, as well as the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus of the amygdala, accompanied by changed expression of several synapse-associated proteins. Chronic escitalopram administration significantly changed the above alternations in the chronic unpredicted mild stress rats but had little effect on normal controls. Also, there was a positive correlation between the locomotor activity and the maximal synaptic postsynaptic density thickness in the stratum radiatum of the Cornu Ammonis 1 region and a negative correlation between the sucrose preference and the length of the active zone in the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus region in chronic unpredicted mild stress rats.

CONCLUSION: These findings strongly indicate that chronic stress and escitalopram can alter synaptic plasticity in the neural circuits, and the remodeled synaptic ultrastructure was correlated with the rats' depressive behaviors, suggesting a therapeutic target for further exploration.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)pyv046
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2015