Alcohol induced depressive-like behavior is associated with a reduction in hippocampal BDNF

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Dec;100(2):253-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2011.08.014. Epub 2011 Sep 10.


Strong positive correlation between depression and alcoholism is evident in epidemiological reports. However, a causal relationship for this co-morbidity has not been established. We have observed that chronic daily exposure to a relatively high dose of alcohol can induce depressive-like behavior in rats and that pretreatment with nomifensine or imipramine can block the "depressogenic" effects of alcohol. Since brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is considered to play an important role in depressive-like behaviors and its elevation, particularly in the hippocampus, appears to be critical for the action of many antidepressants, we hypothesized that: 1. WKY rats, a putative animal model of depression, will show a lower hippocampal BDNF compared to their control Wistar rats, 2. Alcohol-induced depressive like behavior will be associated with a significant decrease in hippocampal BDNF and 3. Treatments with antidepressants will normalize hippocampal BDNF. These postulates were verified by measuring hippocampal BDNF in Wistar and WKY rats at baseline, following chronic (10 day) treatment with alcohol and combination of alcohol with nomifensine or imipramine. Alcohol was administered via inhalation chamber (3 h/day) such that a blood alcohol level of approximately 150 mg% was achieved. Nomifensine (10 mg/kg) or imipramine (10 mg/kg) was administered i.p. daily immediately after alcohol exposure. BDNF was measured by standard ELISA kit. The results support a role for central BDNF in depressogenic effects of alcohol and antidepressant effects of nomifensine and imipramine. Moreover, depression per se as manifested in WKY rats may be associated with a reduction in hippocampal BDNF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Depression / chemically induced*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Ethanol