Background: The functioning of the brain serotonin system has been implicated in the action of antidepressant drugs. The behavior of rats performing the Differential Reinforcement of Low Rate-72 sec (DRL 72s) has been used as a screen for drugs with antidepressant activity. Many antidepressant drugs alter serotonergic function. Hence, experiments were designed to investigate the role of the brain serotonin system in the performance of DRL 72s behavior.
Methods: Rats were trained to perform a DRL 72s, and then depleted (LESION) of brain serotonin (5-HT) using intracerebroventricular 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT). Control rats (SHAM) were injected with the 5,7-DHT vehicle.
Results: The 5,7-DHT-treated rats showed a higher response rate, a decrease in the number of reinforcements, and a shift in the interresponse time (IRT) distribution toward shorter IRTs when compared to SHAM and prelesion performance. The behavioral deficit in the 5,7-DHT rats persisted for 17 weeks. Postmortem assays indicated extensive depletion of 5-HT in all the assayed brain regions of the LESION rats. The effects of the serotonergic agonists 8-hydroxy-2-di-N-propylaminotetralin (8-OH-DPAT), 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeODMT), buspirone, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) were assessed. 5-MeODMT and 8-OH-DPAT resulted in greater improvement of DRL 72s performance in the LESION rats than in the SHAM rats. Buspirone failed to ameliorate the behavioral deficit in the LESION rats and produced a behavioral deficit in the SHAM rats. 5-HTP improved performance in the SHAM rats and in the LESION rats.
Conclusions: These results support the contention that the brain 5-HT system is involved in the mediation of antidepressant drug effects.