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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2010 Jan;332(1):266-73. doi: 10.1124/jpet.109.158717. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

Sex-specific effects of chronic fluoxetine treatment on neuroplasticity and pharmacokinetics in mice.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Neurogenesis is a mechanism through which antidepressants may produce therapeutic effects. There is a dearth of information regarding the effects of antidepressants on neurogenesis and neurotrophin mobilization in females. This study examined sex differences in the alteration of cell proliferation and survival in multiple regions of the brain. Additional experiments examined brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and pharmacokinetics of fluoxetine to determine whether they mediate sex differences. MRL/MpJ mice were treated with fluoxetine (5 and 10 mg/kg b.i.d.) for 21 days and received injections of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (200 mg/kg) to measure DNA synthesis. In the hippocampus, fluoxetine increased cell proliferation at both doses; females treated with 10 mg/kg produced more new cells than males. Fluoxetine did not alter survival in males, but 10 mg/kg reduced survival in females. In the frontal cortex, fluoxetine increased cell proliferation and survival in males treated with 10 mg/kg. In the cerebellum and amygdala, 10 mg/kg fluoxetine increased cell proliferation in both sexes but did not alter the incorporation of the new cells. Fluoxetine increased BDNF levels in the hippocampus of both sexes. BDNF levels correlated with cell proliferation in males but not females. Brain and plasma levels indicated that females metabolized fluoxetine faster than males and produced more of the metabolite norfluoxetine. These data suggest that fluoxetine acts on multiple areas of the brain to increase cell proliferation, and the pattern of activation differs between males and females. Sex-specific effects of fluoxetine on neurotrophin mobilization and pharmacokinetics may contribute to these differences in neural plasticity.

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