Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.  2013 Oct;17(5):393-403. 10.4196/kjpp.2013.17.5.393.

Chronic Administration of Baicalein Decreases Depression-Like Behavior Induced by Repeated Restraint Stress in Rats

Affiliations
  • 1Acupuncture and Meridian Science Research Center, College of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea. bombi@khu.ac.kr, dhhahm@khu.ac.kr
  • 2The Graduate School of Basic Science of Oriental Medicine, College of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea.

Abstract

Baicalein (BA), a plant-derived active flavonoid present in the root of Scutellaria baicalensis, has been widely used for the treatment of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders including depression. Previous studies have demonstrated that repeated restraint stress disrupts the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, resulting in depression. The behavioral and neurochemical basis of the BA effect on depression remain unclear. The present study used the forced swimming test (FST) and changes in brain neurotransmitter levels to confirm the impact of BA on repeated restraint stress-induced behavioral and neurochemical changes in rats. Male rats received 10, 20, or 40 mg/kg BA (i.p.) 30 min prior to daily exposure to repeated restraint stress (2 h/day) for 14 days. Activation of the HPA axis in response to repeated restraint stress was confirmed by measuring serum corticosterone levels and the expression of corticotrophin-releasing factor in the hypothalamus. Daily BA administration significantly decreased the duration of immobility in the FST, increased sucrose consumption, and restored the stress-related decreases in dopamine concentrations in the hippocampus to near normal levels. BA significantly inhibited the stress-induced decrease in neuronal tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity in the ventral tegmental area and the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA in the hippocampus. Taken together, these findings indicate that administration of BA prior to the repeated restraint stress significantly improves helpless behaviors and depressive symptoms, possibly by preventing the decrease in dopamine and BDNF expression. Thus, BA may be a useful agent for the treatment or alleviation of the complex symptoms associated with depression.

Keyword

Baicalein; Chronic stress; Depression; Dopamine; Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis
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