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J Neurochem. 1989 Feb;52(2):507-14.

Effect of different photoperiod exposure on [3H]imipramine binding and serotonin uptake in the rat brain.

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Center of Neuropharmacology, University of Milan, Italy.


Seasonal rhythmicity in the occurrence of acute depressive episodes and the therapeutic efficacy of light exposure suggest the possible involvement of the pineal gland or other biological oscillators in the pathophysiology of depressive illness. We have performed studies to clarify whether different light/dark (LD) cycle schedules may induce changes in the biochemical targets of antidepressants in the rat CNS. In particular, we have investigated the effect of short- (LD 8:16) or long-day (LD 14:10) photoperiods on different biochemical parameters of serotonergic neurons. A significant increase in the density of [3H]imipramine ([3H]IMI) binding and in the Vmax of 5-[3H]hydroxytryptamine (5-[3H]HT) uptake was found in the hypothalamus of LD 8:16-with respect to LD 14:10-exposed rats, whereas no difference was found in the kinetic properties of postsynaptic 5-HT receptors and in 5-HT metabolism in the hypothalami and cerebral cortices of rats exposed to the two different photoperiods. A seasonal rhythm of [3H]IMI binding sites and 5-HT uptake seems to exist only in certain brain areas, such as the hypothalamus, because no differences were found in the cerebral cortex of LD 14:10- and LD 8:16-accustomed rats. [3H]IMI binding and 5-HT uptake were significantly increased in the hypothalamus of rats accustomed to a light/dark-inverted cycle (DL 10:14) and killed 6 h after the stopping of lighting in comparison to rats exposed to normal LD 14:10 cycles and killed 6 h after the beginning of lighting. Therefore, a circadian modification of the serotonergic presynaptic sites seems to be present and related to light/dark exposure. Because the existence of endogenous compounds able to modulate [3H]IMI binding and 5-HT uptake, other than 5-HT, has been postulated in the mammalian brain, the involvement of these substances in the periodic changes observed could be suggested.

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