Cholecystokinin (CCK) involvement in depression-like disorders is poorly documented. Here, we investigated whether CCKergic neurotransmission is relevant to depressive-like symptoms and antidepressant therapy using a novel preclinical model based on repeated social defeat over 4 weeks in rats. Repeated social defeat triggers changes that could be considered as behavioral and biological correlates of depressive symptoms in humans, such as a hyperactivity of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (increase of serum corticosterone levels and of adrenal gland weight), increased immobility time in the forced swimming test (FST), decrease of body weight and of sweet water consumption and reduction of hippocampal volume associated with a decreased cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus. In addition, in vivo microdialysis showed that cortical CCK release was tonically increased in defeated rats. Chronic imipramine treatment (16 mg kg(-1) per day for 25 days) prevented both the repeated social defeat-induced alterations of biological and behavioral parameters and the associated increase of cortical CCK release. Chronic blockade of CCK2 receptors by the specific antagonist CI-988 (1 mg kg(-1) per day for 25 days) also normalized immobility time in the FST and prevented HPA axis hyperactivity, reduction of hippocampal volume and cell proliferation and decreased sweet water intake normally evoked by repeated social defeat. These data showed that the repeated social-defeat paradigm can be considered as a suitable model of 'depression' in rats. The causal link between social defeat-evoked (1) increase in cortical CCKergic neurotransmission and (2) depression-like symptoms that we highlighted here strongly suggests that CCKergic systems may be a relevant target for novel antidepressant therapy.