Antidepressant-like Effect of Bacopaside I in Mice Exposed to Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress by Modulating the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Function and Activating BDNF Signaling Pathway

Neurochem Res. 2017 Nov;42(11):3233-3244. doi: 10.1007/s11064-017-2360-3. Epub 2017 Jul 31.


Preliminary studies conducted in our laboratory have confirmed that Bacopaside I (BS-I), a saponin compound isolated from Bacopa monnieri, displayed antidepressant-like activity in the mouse behavioral despair model. The present investigation aimed to verify the antidepressant-like action of BS-I using a mouse model of behavioral deficits induced by chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) and further probe its underlying mechanism of action. Mice were exposed to CUMS for a period of 5 consecutive weeks to induce depression-like behavior. Then, oral gavage administrations with vehicle (model group), fluoxetine (12 mg/kg, positive group) or BS-I (5, 15, 45 mg/kg, treated group) once daily were started during the last two weeks of CUMS procedure. The results showed that BS-I significantly ameliorated CUMS-induced depression-like behaviors in mice, as characterized by an elevated sucrose consumption in the sucrose preference test and reduced immobility time without affecting spontaneous locomotor activity in the forced swimming test, tail suspension test and open field test. It was also found that BS-I treatment reversed the increased level of plasma corticosterone and decreased mRNA and protein expressions of glucocorticoid receptor induced by CUMS exposure, indicating that hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity of CUMS-exposed mice was restored by BS-I treatment. Furthermore, chronic administration of BS-I elevated expression levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (mRNA and protein) and activated the phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase and cAMP response element-binding protein in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in mice subjected to CUMS procedure. Taken together, these results indicated that BS-I exhibited an obvious antidepressant-like effect in mouse model of CUMS-induced depression that was mediated, at least in part, by modulating HPA hyperactivity and activating BDNF signaling pathway.

Keywords: Antidepressant-like effect; Bacopaside I; Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Chronic unpredictable mild stress; Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / drug effects
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / drug effects
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism*
  • Saponins / pharmacology
  • Saponins / therapeutic use*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology
  • Triterpenes / therapeutic use*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Saponins
  • Triterpenes
  • bacopaside I