Versatile biological activities of Hericium erinaceus (HE) have been reported in many brain diseases. However, roles of HE in major psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety remain to be investigated. Therefore, we evaluated whether HE could reduce anxiety and depressive behaviors in the adult mouse and its underlying mechanisms. Male C57BL/6 mice were administered HE (20 or 60 mg/kg, p.o.) or saline once a day for 4 weeks. Open field and tail suspension tests were performed 30 min after the last administration of HE, followed by forced swim test 2 days later. We found that chronic administration of HE showed anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects. To elucidate possible mechanisms, proliferative activity of the hippocampal progenitor cells was assessed by immunohistochemistry of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and Ki67. Moreover, to evaluate neuronal survival in the dentate gyrus, 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) (120 mg/kg, i.p.) was given at the first day of HE administration, followed by isolation of the brains 4 weeks later. HE (60 mg/kg) increased the number of PCNA- and Ki67-positive cells in the subgranular zone of the hippocampus, indicating increased proliferation of hippocampal progenitors. In addition, BrdU- and BrdU/NeuN-positive cells in the dentate gyrus were significantly increased when treated with HE (60 mg/kg) compared with the saline-treated group, demonstrating enhanced neurogenesis by HE treatment. Taken together, the results indicate that chronic HE administration can exert anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects, possibly by enhancing adult hippocampal neurogenesis.
Keywords: Hericium erinaceus; adult neurogenesis; antidepressant; anxiolysis; hippocampus; mushroom.