In major depression, one line of research indicates that a dysfunctional GABAergic inhibitory system is linked to the appearance of depressive symptoms. However, as the mechanistic details of such GABAergic deficit are largely unknown, we undertook a functional investigation of the GABAergic system in the rat chronic mild stress model of depression. Adult rats were exposed to an eight-week long stress protocol leading to anhedonic-like behavior. In hippocampal brain slices, phasic, and tonic GABA(A) receptor-mediated currents in dentate gyrus granule cells were examined using patch-clamp recordings. In granule cells, the frequency of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs) was reduced to 41% in anhedonic-like rats, which was associated with a reduced probability of evoked GABA release. Using immunohistochemical analysis, there was no change in the number of parvalbumin-positive interneurons in the dentate gyrus. Notably, we observed a 60% increase in THIP-activated tonic GABA(A) mediated current in anhedonic-like rats, suggesting an upregulation of extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors. Finally, five weeks treatment with the antidepressant escitalopram partially reversed the sIPSCs frequency. In summary, we have revealed a hippocampal dysfunction in the GABAergic system in the chronic mild stress model of depression in rats, caused by a reduction in action potential-dependent GABA release. Since the function of the GABAergic system was improved by antidepressant treatment, in parallel with behavioral read outs, it suggests a role of the GABAergic system in the pathophysiology of depression.
Copyright © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.