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Behav Brain Res. 2011 Sep 12;222(1):230-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.052. Epub 2011 Mar 31.

Downregulation of hypothalamic insulin receptor expression elicits depressive-like behaviors in rats.

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Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, 6439 Garner's Ferry Road, D40, Columbia, SC 29208, United States.


Ongoing epidemiological studies estimate that greater than 60% of the adult US population may be categorized as either overweight or obese. There is a growing appreciation that the complications of obesity extend to the central nervous system (CNS) and may result in increased risk for neurological co-morbidities like depressive illness. One potential mechanistic mediator linking obesity and depressive illness is the adipocyte derived hormone leptin. We previously demonstrated that lentivirus-mediated downregulation of hypothalamic insulin receptors increases body weight, adiposity and plasma leptin levels, which is consistent with features of the metabolic syndrome. Using this novel model of obesity, we examined performance in the forced swim test (FST), the sucrose preference test and the elevated plus maze (EPM), approaches that are often used as measures of depressive-like and anxiety-like behaviors, in rats that received third ventricular injections of either an insulin receptor antisense lentivirus (hypo-IRAS) or a control lentivirus (hypo-Con). Hypo-IRAS rats exhibited significant increases in immobility time and corresponding decreases in active behaviors in the FST and exhibited anhedonia as measured by decreased sucrose intake compared to hypo-Con rats. Hypo-IRAS rats also exhibited increases in anxiety-like behaviors in the EPM. Plasma, hippocampal and amygdalar brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels were reduced in hypo-IRAS rats, suggesting that the obesity/hyperleptinemic phenotype may elicit this behavioral phenotype through modulation of neurotrophic factor expression. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis for an increased risk for mood disorders in obesity, which may be related to decreased expression of hippocampal and amygdalar BDNF.

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