Background: Antidepressants (AD) need to be chronically administered (weeks to months) to provide beneficial effects. Evidence suggests that combined administration of inhibitors of monoamine reuptake and phosphodiesterase type 4 allows a highly effective therapeutic action. Also, this coadministration more rapidly boosts the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) pathway, which is normally activated during chronic treatment of single compounds. Little is known, however, about how this augmentation therapy affects the core mechanism of glutamatergic plasticity. We therefore investigated how in vivo combinational subchronic rolipram and imipramine (scRI) treatment affects depressive behavior, cAMP-dependent transcription, and glutamatergic transmission in the hippocampus, a region critically implicated in depression.
Methods: Antidepressant properties of scRI were investigated through the forced swim test. Changes in cAMP-dependent transcription and synaptic transmission of CA1 pyramidal cells were explored with green fluorescent protein, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, electrophysiology recordings, and Golgi-Cox staining.
Results: We demonstrate that scRI displays robust antidepressant properties compared with single-drug treatments and increases hippocampal c-Fos expression and brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein levels. These effects are accompanied by a specific increase in alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in already existing synapses. Finally, both acute and subchronic treatments led to enhancement of long-term potentiation but differently affected spine density and morphology, with scRI administration specifically resulting in a large increase in stubby spines.
Conclusions: We conclude that scRI is highly effective in providing antidepressive effects, including the hippocampal transcriptional alterations normally observed with longer single-drug treatments. Furthermore, we identified scRI-induced modifications in glutamatergic transmission that probably underlie the beneficial action of this combinational therapy.