Antidepressant-like effects of melatonin in the mouse chronic mild stress model

Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 Apr 1;607(1-3):121-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.02.037. Epub 2009 Feb 26.


Melatonin is a hormone primarily synthesized by the pineal gland and has been shown to govern seasonal and circadian rhythms, as well as the immune system, certain behaviours, and responses to stress. Chronic exposure to stress is involved in the etiology of human depression, and depressed patients present changes in circadian and seasonal rhythms. This study investigated the effects of daily exogenous melatonin (1 and 10 mg/kg, p.o.) and imipramine (20 mg/kg, i.p.) on the changes in the coat state, grooming behaviour and corticosterone levels induced by the unpredictable chronic mild stress model of depression in mice. As expected, the 5 weeks of unpredictable chronic mild stress schedule induced significant degradation of the coat state, decreased grooming and increased serum corticosterone levels. All of these unpredictable chronic mild stress-induced changes were counteracted by melatonin (P<0.05) and imipramine (P<0.01). Especially in view of the relevance of stress as a major contributing factor in depression, as well as the alleged importance of normalizing a hyperfunctioning HPA axis and resynchronizing circadian rhythms for a successful treatment of depression, this study reassesses the potential of melatonin as an antidepressant.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / drug effects
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Imipramine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Melatonin / administration & dosage
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / drug effects
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Melatonin
  • Imipramine
  • Corticosterone