The effect of early–life exposure of rats to venlafaxine on behaviour and neurological markers of antidepressant action in adulthood
Major depression is a serious mood disorder affecting more than 120 million people worldwide, irrespective of their race or socio-economic status. This psychiatric disorder is predicted to become the second leading cause of disability by the year 2020, second only to heart diseases in the global population, without distinguishing differences in the incidence within defined age groups. Depression is known to affect people across all age groups, including children, adolescents, adults and geriatrics, although older age is associated with an increased susceptibility to major depression and other psychiatric conditions. Until the 1970‘s depression during childhood and adolescence was thought to be uncommon or non-existent. Recent epidemiological studies have demonstrated that there is a persistent escalation in the prevalence of depression in children and adolescents. Accordingly, the number of prescriptions for drugs to treat this disorder in juveniles has escalated significantly. With our current limited understanding of the safety and long-term effects of treatment with antidepressants, the clinician is left making decisions without sound evidence of safety. In addition, psychotropic drugs may affect neurodevelopment during childhood and adolescence and may consequently modulate susceptibility to psychiatric disorders later in life. The objective of the current study was to investigate the effects of early-life (pre-natal and postnatal) chronic treatment with venlafaxine, a dual action serotonin-noradrenalin reuptake inhibitor, during the developmental phase of the serotonin and norepinephrine pathways in stress-sensitive rats on measures of cognition, anxiety-like and depressive-like behaviour later in life. The study also investigated which age shows optimal behavioural changes later in life, following the above mentioned administration of venlafaxine. In addition we also determined the effects that the administration of venlafaxine has on the levels of monoamines l-norepinephrine (l-NE) and serotonin (5-HT) in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. A number of translational animal models of psychiatric disorders have been described and validated, and is suitable for such investigations. For the current study we used stress-sensitive Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) rats and their controls, Flinders Resistant Line (FRL) rats. Pregnant dams were injected subcutaneously for 14 days with 10 mg/kg venlafaxine or saline from pre-natal day 15 (ND-15) to ND-01. New-born pups were then injected subcutaneously with 3 mg/kg venlafaxine or saline for 14 days from postnatal day 3 (ND+03) to ND+17. These doses were determined from previous studies reported in literature. Four rat treatment groups of both FSL and FRL rats received injections during pre-natal + postnatal ages as follows: saline + saline, venlafaxine + saline, saline + venlafaxine and venlafaxine + venlafaxine. Following the drug treatments, all rat groups were housed under normal conditions until the indicated time to be subjected to a battery of behavioural tests, including the novel object recognition test (nORT), locomotor activity test (Digiscan®), elevated plus maze (EPM) and forced-swim test (FST), scheduled on either ND+35, ND+60 or ND+90. Separate treatment groups were used for each age group. After the behavioural tests animals were decapitated, the brains removed and the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus dissected out. These were analysed at a later stage using an HPLC with electrochemical detection to determine the levels of the monoamines l-NE and 5-HT. All animal procedures were approved by the Ethics Committee of the North-West University (approval number: NWU-00045-10-S5), and are in accordance with the recommendations of the National Institutes of Health guide for the care and use of laboratory animals. The data from the current study suggest that in general FRL rats were not influenced by the early-life treatment with venlafaxine, as observed in the nORT, EPM or FST on ND+35, ND+60 or ND+90. There was minimal changes seen in the immobile behaviour in the FST of FRL rats that received prenatal venlafaxine. As expected, depressive-like behaviour in the FST was significantly enhanced in FSL rats relative to corresponding FRL rat groups as observed at ND+35 and ND+60, but not ND+90. Importantly, depressive-like behaviour was reversed following pre- and postnatal treatment with venlafaxine in FSL rats at ND+60, relative to the corresponding FRL rat groups. Reversal of depressive-like behaviour in FSL rats were not observed at ND+35 or ND+90, suggesting a delayed response that is reversed later in adulthood. The data from the nORT, Digiscan® or EPM did not reveal any significant differences between the various FSL treatment groups, including at ND+60. The current study therefore demonstrated that the treatment regimen employed had a transient effect on depressive-like behaviour later in life and suggested that genetic susceptibility plays an important role in the treatment of depression. This was suggested by the venlafaxine-induced decrease in immobile behaviour exhibited by FSL rats at ND+60 in the FST, and the subsequent increase in immobile behaviour at ND+90. In general, the most significant venlafaxine-induced effects were seen in FSL rats, suggesting genetic susceptibility plays an important role.
- Health Sciences