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Stressors affect the response of male and female rats to clomipramine in a model of behavioral despair (forced swim test).

Author(s): Consoli D, Fedotova J, Micale V, Sapronov NS, Drago F

Affiliation(s): Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Catania Medical School, Viale A. Doria, 6 95125 Catania, Italy.

Publication date & source: 2005-09-27, Eur J Pharmacol., 520(1-3):100-7.

Publication type: Comparative Study

Aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of physical stressors (electric foot-shocks) on effect of the antidepressant drug, clomipramine and plasma corticosterone levels in male and female rats tested in a model of behavioral despair (forced swim test,). Male and female rats of the Wistar strain were injected with clomipramine (50 mg/kg, i.p.) or saline. A group of animals also received electric shocks of different intensity and duration of 24, 5 and 1 h before being subjected to forced swim test. At the end of behavioral procedures, vaginal smears were assessed in all female animals and data on immobility time were plotted according to the ovarian cycle phase. After decapitation, corticosterone plasma levels were measured by radioimmunoassay in both male and female rats. Application of mild shocks (5 ms, 0.1 mA) significantly reduced immobility time in forced swim test of untreated male rats and augmented clomipramine effect on this parameter. Moderate shocks of higher intensity or duration (5 ms, 1.0 mA) also resulted in decreased immobility time of untreated male rats, but in reduced effect of clomipramine treatment. Furthermore, application of severe shocks (10 ms, 1.0 mA) increased the immobility time in untreated animals and totally abolished clomipramine effect in forced swim test. Untreated non-shocked female rats in proestrous and estrous phases exhibited a longer immobility time as compared to diestrous animals. Immobility time appeared to be generally higher when mild, moderate or severe shocks were applied prior to behavioral testing in proestrous and estrous animals, while the behavioral response of diestrous and metestrous animals did not differ from that of controls. Clomipramine effect on immobility time was generally reduced by application of shocks of every strengths. Stress-induced plasma corticosterone levels surge correlated with intensity and duration of shocks in both male and female rats, but clomipramine treatment generally blunted the hormonal response. However, severe shocks were followed by a surge of plasma corticosterone levels in both male and female clomipramine-treated rats. These results demonstrate that duration and intensity of stressful stimuli may deeply affect the behavioral response of rats in forced swim test and influence clomipramine effect in this behavioral model depending on gender-based variables, probably of the hormonal type. Plasma corticosterone levels correlate with the behavioral response to clomipramine treatment suggesting that reactivity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis to stress may be involved in the antidepressant effect of this drug.

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