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J Neurosci. 2007 Sep 26;27(39):10520-9.

Vmat2 heterozygous mutant mice display a depressive-like phenotype.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Mouse Behavioral and Neuroendocrine Analysis Core Facility, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


The vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) is localized primarily within the CNS and is responsible for transporting monoamines from the cytoplasm into secretory vesicles. Because reserpine (a VMAT inhibitor) can precipitate depressive-like symptoms in humans, we investigated whether Vmat2 heterozygous (HET) mice present with depressive-like behaviors. The mutants showed locomotor and rearing retardation in the open field and appeared anhedonic to 1 and 1.5% sucrose solutions. Immobility times for Vmat2 heterozygotes were prolonged in forced swim and imipramine normalized this behavior. HET animals also showed enhanced immobility in tail suspension and this response was alleviated by fluoxetine, reboxetine, and bupropion. Stimulated GTPgammaS binding indicated that alpha2-adrenergic receptors in HET hippocampus were more sensitive to UK 14,304 (5-bromo-N-(4,5-dihydro-1-H-imidazol-2-yl)-6-quinoxalinamine) stimulation than in wild type (WT) mice. In learned helplessness, mice were exposed to a shuttle box for 4 d or were given inescapable foot-shocks for the same time period. On day 5, all animals were tested in shock escape. Failure rates and the latency to escape were similar for WT and HET mice that were only pre-exposed to the test apparatus. In foot-shock groups, learned helplessness was more robust in heterozygotes than in WT controls. Basal secretion of serum corticosterone was not distinguished by genotype; however, corticosterone levels in mutants were more responsive to stress. Anxiety-like responses of WT and HET animals in the open field, light-dark exploration, zero maze, and novelty-suppressed feeding tests were indistinguishable. Collectively, these findings suggest that Vmat2 heterozygotes display a depressive-like phenotype that is devoid of anxiety-like behavior.

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