Treatment of depressive-like behaviour in Huntington's disease mice by chronic sertraline and exercise

Thibault Renoir*, Terence Y C Pang, Michelle S. Zajac, Grace Chan, Xin Du, Leah Leang, Caroline Chevarin, Laurence Lanfumey, Anthony J. Hannan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in Huntington's disease (HD) patients. Women are more prone to develop depression and such susceptibility might be related to 5-hydroxytryptaminergic (serotonergic) dysregulation. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH We performed tests of depression-related behaviours on female R6/1 HD mice that had been chronically treated with sertraline or provided with running-wheels. Functional assessments of 5-HT 1A and 5-HT 2A receptors were performed by measuring behavioural and physiological responses following administration of specific agonists, in combination with analysis of hippocampal gene expression. Finally we assessed the effect of exercise on hippocampal cell proliferation. KEY RESULTS Female HD mice recorded increased immobility time in the forced-swimming test, reduced saccharin preference and a hyperthermic response to stress compared with wild-type animals. These alterations were improved by chronic sertraline treatment. Wheel-running also resulted in similar improvements with the exception of saccharin preference but failed to correct the hippocampal cell proliferation deficits displayed by HD mice. The benefits of sertraline treatment and exercise involved altered 5-HT 1A autoreceptor function, as demonstrated by modulation of the exaggerated 8-OH-DPAT-induced hypothermia exhibited by female HD mice. On the other hand, sertraline treatment was unable to restore the reduced 5-HT 1A and 5-HT 2 heteroceptor function observed in HD animals. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS We report for the first time a crucial role for 5-HT 1A autoreceptor function in mediating the sex-specific depressive-like phenotype of female R6/1 HD mice. Our data further support a differential effect of chronic sertraline treatment and exercise on hippocampal cell proliferation despite common behavioural benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1375-1389
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT
  • behaviour
  • depression
  • exercise
  • Huntington's disease
  • neurogenesis
  • serotonin
  • sertraline


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