Repeated finasteride administration induces depression-like behavior in adult male rats

Behav Brain Res. 2019 Jun 3:365:185-189. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2019.03.006. Epub 2019 Mar 2.


The enzyme 5α-Reductase (5α-R) catalyzes the formation of dihydrotestosterone, which is involved in male pattern hair loss and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Finasteride inhibits 5α-R and is used to treat both these conditions. Several clinical studies show that chronic finasteride treatment induces persistent depression, suicidal thoughts, and cognitive impairment. The neural mechanisms underlying these effects of finasteride are not known and it is imperative that an animal model that mimics the clinical neuropsychiatric effects of finasteride is developed. Accordingly, we evaluated the behavioral effects of acute and repeated finasteride administration. Two months old male Wistar rats were administered with either vehicle (hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin) or different doses of finasteride, subcutaneously, either acutely (30 min or 2 h) or for 1, 3, and 6 days (one dose per day). Behavioral despair and motivational behavior were evaluated in the forced swim test (FST) and splash test, respectively. FST and splash test were video-recorded and analyzed offline. Finasteride did not show any effects in the acute, one day or three days studies in the FST. However, repeated finasteride administration for 6 days significantly increased the immobility time. In the splash test, finasteride (100 mg/kg) administration increased the latency to groom and decreased the grooming duration implying lack of motivation in the three-day study. In the six-day study, latency to groom was significantly increased by the 100 mg/Kg dose. Further, a significant dose dependent decrease in the grooming duration was observed. In summary, our results indicate that repeated finasteride administration induces depression-like behavior in rats. This study provides the evidence that an animal model of finasteride-induced depression is feasible to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms, and the pharmacology underlying the neuropsychiatric effects of finasteride. Further, these results provide insights into the potential involvement of neurosteroids in depression and will lead to the development of novel therapeutics for its treatment.

Keywords: 5α-Reductase; Allopregnanolone; Depression; Finasteride; Hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin; Neurosteroids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5-alpha Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • 5-alpha Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Depression / chemically induced
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Depressive Disorder / chemically induced
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Finasteride / adverse effects*
  • Finasteride / metabolism
  • Finasteride / pharmacology*
  • Grooming / drug effects
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Swimming


  • 5-alpha Reductase Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Finasteride