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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Dec;85(4):827-34. Epub 2007 Jan 3.

A possible mechanism for anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of alpha- and beta-amyrin from Protium heptaphyllum (Aubl.) March.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Federal University of Ceará (UFC), Rua Cel Nunes de Melo 1127, Fortaleza 60431-970, Brazil.


In the present study, we examined the anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of the mixture of alpha- and beta-amyrin (AMY), pentacyclic triterpenes isolated from the stem bark resin of Protium heptaphyllum. These effects of AMY were demonstrated by the open-field, elevated-plus-maze, rota rod, forced swimming, and pentobarbital-induced sleeping time tests, in mice. In the open-field test, AMY at the doses of 10, 25 and 50 mg/kg, after intraperitoneal or oral administrations, significantly decreased the number of crossings, grooming, and rearing. All these effects were reversed by the pre-treatment with flumazenil (2.5 mg/kg, i.p.), similarly to those observed with diazepam used as a positive standard. In the elevated-plus-maze test, AMY increased the time of permanence and the number of entrances in the open arms. On the contrary, the time of permanence and the number of entrances in the closed arms were decreased. All these effects were also completely reversed by flumazenil, an antagonist of benzodiazepine receptors. In the pentobarbital-induced sleeping time test, AMY at the same doses significantly increased the animals sleeping time duration. In the rota rod test, AMY did not alter motor coordination and, thus, was devoid of effects, as related to controls. Since AMY, at the doses of 10 and 25 mg/kg, showed a sedative effect in the open field test, lower doses (2.5 and 5.0 mg/kg) were used in the forced swimming test, producing a decrease in the immobility time, similarly to that of imipramine, the positive control. The effect of AMI was greater when it was administered 15 min after imipramine (10 mg/kg). However, the antidepressant AMY effects were not altered by the previous administration of paroxetine, a selective blocker of serotonin uptake. In addition, AMY effects in the forced swimming test were totally blocked by reserpine pretreatment, a drug known to induce depletion of biogenic amines. In conclusion, the present work evidenced sedative and anxiolytic effects of AMY that might involve an action on benzodiazepine-type receptors, and also an antidepressant effect where noradrenergic mechanisms will probably play a role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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