Major depression is a life threatening neuropsychiatric disorder that produces mental illness and major cause of morbidity. The present study was conducted to evaluate the neuroprotective, neurotrophic and antioxidant potential of Bacopa monnieri extract (BME) on chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) induced behavioral depression in rats. Behavioral tests were carried out for investigation of antidepressant like effects of BME, and potential mechanism was assessed by determining neurotrophin level and hippocampal neurogenesis. Depressive-like behavior was assessed by shuttle-box escape test, forced swim test and tail suspension test. Effect of BME on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis was evaluated by measuring the plasma level of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone. The expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neuronal marker doublecortin (DCX) in the hippocampus were measured and hippocampal neurogenesis was investigated by 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine/neuronal nuclei (BrdU/NeuN). In addition, effects of BME on oxidative stress markers were also measured in the hippocampus of CUS exposed rats. The results indicated that BME significantly able to attenuate the depressive-like behaviors, normalized the levels of ACTH, corticosterone, and up-regulate the expression of BDNF, DCX and BrdU/NeuN in CUS induced rats compared to BME treated rats. It is also found that BME significantly increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes on CUS induced rats. These findings revealed that BME exerted neuroprotective effects possibly by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis with elevation of BDNF level and antioxidant defense against oxidative stress.
Keywords: Antioxidant; BDNF; Bacopa monnieri; Chronic unpredictable stress; Depression; Hippocampal neurogenesis.