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Daru. 2014 Jan 8;22(1):16. doi: 10.1186/2008-2231-22-16.

Antidepressant effects of crocin and its effects on transcript and protein levels of CREB, BDNF, and VGF in rat hippocampus.

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Pharmaceutical Research Center, Department of Pharmacodynamics and Toxicology, School of Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.



Antidepressants have been shown to affect levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and VGF (non-acronymic) whose transcriptions are dependent on cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) in long term treatment. The aim of this study was to verify the subacute antidepressant effects of crocin, an active constituent of saffron (Crocus sativus L.), and its effects on CREB, BDNF, and VGF proteins, transcript levels and amount of active, phosphorylated CREB (P-CREB) protein in rat hippocampus.


Crocin (12.5, 25, and 50 mg/kg), imipramine (10 mg/kg; positive control) and saline (1 mL/kg; neutral control) were administered intraperitoneally (IP) to male Wistar rats for 21 days. The antidepressant effects were studied using the forced swimming test (FST) on day 21 after injection. Protein expression and transcript levels of genes in the rat hippocampus were evaluated using western blot and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), respectively.


Crocin significantly reduced the immobility time in the FST. Western blot analysis showed that 25 and 50 mg/kg of crocin increased the levels of CREB and BDNF significantly and dose dependently. All doses of crocin increased the VGF levels in a dose-dependent manner. Levels of p-CREB increased significantly by 50 mg/kg dose of crocin. Only 12.5 mg/kg crocin could significantly increase the transcript levels of BDNF. No changes in CREB and VGF transcript levels were observed in all groups.


These results suggest that crocin has antidepressant-like action by increasing CREB, BDNF and VGF levels in hippocampus.

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