Maca has been consumed as a medical food in Peru for thousands of years, and exerts anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. Our present study aimed to evaluate the behavior and anatomical and biochemical effects of petroleum ether extract from maca (ME) in the chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) model of depression in mice. Three different doses of maca extract (125, 250, and 500 mg/kg) were orally administrated in the six-week CUMS procedure. Fluoxetine (10 mg/kg) was used as a positive control drug. Maca extract (250 and 500 mg/kg) significantly decreased the duration of immobility time in the tail suspension test. After treatment with maca extract (250 and 500 mg/kg), the granule cell layer in the dentate gyrus appeared thicker. Maca extract (250 and 500 mg/kg) also induced a significant reduction in corticosterone levels in mouse serum. In mouse brain tissue, after six weeks of treatment, noradrenaline and dopamine levels were increased by maca extract, and the activity of reactive oxygen species was significantly inhibited. Serotonin levels were not significantly altered. These results demonstrated that maca extract (250 and 500 mg/kg) showed antidepressant-like effects and was related to the activation of both noradrenergic and dopaminergic systems, as well as attenuation of oxidative stress in mouse brain.
Keywords: antidepressant; corticosterone; maca (Lepidium meyenii); monoamine neurotransmitters; reactive oxygen species; tail suspension test.