Mutations in the structural protein dystrophin underlie muscular dystrophies characterized by progressive deterioration of muscle function. Dystrophin-deficient mdx mice are considered a model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Individuals with DMD are also susceptible to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, the study objectives were to investigate the effects of the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline on mood, learning, central cytokine expression and skeletal muscle inflammation in mdx mice. Amitriptyline-induced effects (10 mg kg(-1) daily s.c. injections, 25 days) on the behaviour of mdx mice were investigated using the open field arena and tail suspension tests. The effects of chronic amitriptyline treatment on inflammatory markers were studied in the muscle and plasma of mdx mice, and mood-associated monoamine and cytokine concentrations were measured in the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, striatum, hypothalamus and midbrain. The mdx mice exhibited increased levels of anxiety and depressive-like behaviour compared with wild-type mice. Amitriptyline treatment had anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in mdx mice associated with elevations in serotonin levels in the amygdala and hippocampus. Inflammation in mdx skeletal muscle tissue was also reduced following amitriptyline treatment as indicated by decreased immune cell infiltration of muscle and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 in the forelimb flexors. Interleukin-6 mRNA expression was remarkably reduced in the amygdala of mdx mice by chronic amitriptyline treatment. Positive effects of amitriptyline on mood, in addition to its anti-inflammatory effects in skeletal muscle, may make it an attractive therapeutic option for individuals with DMD.
© 2014 The Authors. Experimental Physiology © 2014 The Physiological Society.