Nerve growth factor (NGF) has novel antidepressant-like properties in rats

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Feb;94(4):553-60. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2009.11.010. Epub 2009 Nov 27.


Nerve growth factor, a neurotrophin, may have other functions, including a role in depressive disorders. The present study sought to determine whether NGF would (1) have antidepressant-like effects and (2) behave similarly to or differently from other well-recognized antidepressants. Over a broad dose-range, NGF reduced the exaggerated swim test immobility exhibited by the Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) rats, but at a standard dose of 40 ng/ml, it was not as effective as desipramine (DMI, 5 mg/kg). The low social interaction behavior and locomotor activity of the FSL rats were less affected by NGF than was the immobility. Acute treatment with NGF did not induce c-fos expression in brain regions known to be activated by other acute antidepressants. The fact that chronic treatment with DMI blunted the corticosterone response to fluoxetine was replicated in this study. However, chronic treatment with NGF did not alter this response. Similarly, chronic treatment with fluoxetine blunted 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(2A) receptor-mediated responses, whereas chronic treatment with NGF was without effect. Thus, NGF has antidepressant-like effects but does not appear to have biochemical actions typical of other antidepressants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Desipramine / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Interactions
  • Fluoxetine / pharmacology
  • Hypothermia
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nerve Growth Factor / pharmacology*
  • Nerve Growth Factor / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serotonin Agents / pharmacology
  • Social Behavior
  • Swimming


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Fluoxetine
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Desipramine
  • Corticosterone