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JIMD Rep. 2014;13:159-67. doi: 10.1007/8904_2013_274. Epub 2013 Nov 9.

Behavioral responses in rats submitted to chronic administration of branched-chain amino acids.

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  • 1Laboratório de Bioenergética, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências da Saúde, Universidade do Extremo Sul Catarinense Criciúma, Av. UniversitÄria, 1105, Criciúma, 88806-000, SC, Brazil.


Maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) is an inborn metabolism error caused by a deficiency of branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase complex activity. This blockage leads to an accumulation of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) leucine, isoleucine, and valine, as well as their corresponding α-keto and α-hydroxy acids. Previous reports suggest that MSUD patients are at high risk for chronic neuropsychiatric problems. Therefore, in this study, we assessed variables that suggest depressive-like symptoms (anhedonia as measured by sucrose intake, immobility during the forced swimming test and body and adrenal gland weight) in rats submitted to chronic administration of BCAA during development. Furthermore, we determined if these parameters were sensitive to imipramine and N-acetylcysteine/deferoxamine (NAC/DFX). Our results demonstrated that animals subjected to chronic administration of branched-chain amino acids showed a decrease in sucrose intake without significant changes in body weight. We also observed an increase in adrenal gland weight and immobility time during the forced swimming test. However, treatment with imipramine and NAC/DFX reversed these changes in the behavioral tasks. In conclusion, this study demonstrates a link between MSUD and depression in rats. Moreover, this investigation reveals that the antidepressant action of NAC/DFX and imipramine might be associated with their capability to maintain pro-/anti-oxidative homeostasis.

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