Jens Randel Nyengaard

A critical role of mitochondria in BDNF-associated synaptic plasticity after one-week vortioxetine treatment

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Background: Preclinical studies have indicated that antidepressant effect of vortioxetine involves increased synaptic plasticity and promotion of spine maturation. Mitochondria dysfunction may contribute to the pathophysiological basis of major depressive disorder. Taking into consideration that vortioxetine increases spine number and dendritic branching in hippocampus CA1 faster than fluoxetine, we hypothesize that new spines induced by vortioxetine can rapidly form functional synapses by mitochondrial support, accompanied by increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-signaling.

Methods: Rats were treated for 1 week with vortioxetine or fluoxetine at pharmacologically relevant doses. Number of synapses and mitochondria in hippocampus CA1 were quantified by electron microscopy. BDNF protein levels were visualized with immunohistochemistry. Gene and protein expression of synapse and mitochondria-related markers were investigated with real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and immunoblotting.

Results: Vortioxetine increased number of synapses and mitochondria significantly, whereas fluoxetine had no effect after one-weeks dosing. BDNF levels in hippocampus DG and CA1 were significantly higher after vortioxetine treatment. Gene expression levels of Rac1 after vortioxetine treatment were significantly increased. There was a tendency towards increased gene expression levels of Drp1 and protein levels of Rac1. However, both gene and protein levels of c-Fos were significantly decreased. Furthermore, there was a significant positive correlation between BDNF levels and mitochondria and synapse numbers.

Conclusion: Our results imply that mitochondria play a critical role in synaptic plasticity accompanied by increased BDNF levels. Rapid changes in BDNF levels and synaptic/mitochondria plasticity of hippocampus following vortioxetine compared to fluoxetine may be ascribed to vortioxetine's modulation of serotonin receptors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Pages (from-to)603-615
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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