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Neuropharmacology. 2007 Apr;52(5):1256-62. Epub 2007 Jan 20.

Cytisine, a partial agonist of high-affinity nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, has antidepressant-like properties in male C57BL/6J mice.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 34 Park Street, 3rd Floor Research, New Haven, CT 06508, USA.


The nicotine in tobacco is thought to modulate neuronal systems regulating mood. Moreover, it appears possible that blockade rather than activation of beta2-containing (beta2*) nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) may lead to antidepressant-like effects. We used cytisine, a partial agonist of alpha4/beta2*nAChRs and a full agonist at alpha3/beta4*nAChRs, in several tests of antidepressant efficacy. Further, we used c-fos expression to identify potential neurobiological correlates of the antidepressant-like effects of cytisine. Cytisine had antidepressant-like effects in several animal models of antidepressant efficacy. In addition, immunohistochemical analyses indicated that cytisine could reduce c-fos immunoreactivity in the basolateral amygdala by approximately 50%. These data show that cytisine acts like classical antidepressants in rodent models of antidepressant efficacy. In addition, cytisine's ability to block alpha4/beta2*nAChRs may be responsible for its antidepressant-like properties, and these may be mediated through a reduction of neuronal activity in the basolateral amygdala. These studies also suggest that both antagonists and partial agonists of alpha4/beta2*nAChRs would be interesting targets for the development of novel antidepressant drugs.

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