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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2010 May;298(5):E920-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00606.2009. Epub 2010 Jan 26.

Treatment with an SSRI antidepressant restores hippocampo-hypothalamic corticosteroid feedback and reverses insulin resistance in low-birth-weight rats.

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Department of Pharmacology, Wilhelm Meyers Allé, Bldg. 1240, Aarhus University, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.


Low birth weight (LBW) is associated with type 2 diabetes and depression, which may be related to prenatal stress and insulin resistance as a result of chronic hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity. We examined whether treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor [escitalopram (ESC)] could downregulate HPA axis activity and restore insulin sensitivity in LBW rats. After 4-5 wk of treatment, ESC-exposed LBW (SSRI-LBW) and saline-treated control and LBW rats (Cx and LBW) underwent an oral glucose tolerance test or a hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp to assess whole body insulin sensitivity. Hepatic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) mRNA expression and red skeletal muscle PKB Ser(473) phosphorylation were used to assess tissue-specific insulin sensitivity. mRNA expression of the hypothalamic mineralocorticoid receptor was fivefold upregulated in LBW (P < 0.05 vs. Cx), accompanied by increased corticosterone release during restraint stress and total 24-h urinary excretion (P < 0.05 vs. Cx), whole body insulin resistance (P < 0.001 vs. Cx), and impaired insulin suppression of hepatic PEPCK mRNA expression (P < 0.05 vs. Cx). Additionally, there was a tendency for reduced red muscle PKB Ser(473) phosphorylation. The ESC treatment normalized corticosterone secretion (P < 0.05 vs. LBW), whole body insulin sensitivity (P < 0.01) as well as postprandial suppression of hepatic mRNA PEPCK expression (P < 0.05), and red muscle PKB Ser(473) phosphorylation (P < 0.01 vs. LBW). We conclude that these data suggest that the insulin resistance and chronic HPA axis hyperactivity in LBW rats can be reversed by treatment with an ESC, which downregulates HPA axis activity, lowers glucocorticoid exposure, and restores insulin sensitivity in LBW rats.

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