Background: NLX-101 (also known as F15599) is a highly selective and efficacious 'biased' agonist at cortical 5-hydroxytryptamine 1A (5-HT1A) heteroreceptors. In rodents, it possesses marked antidepressant-like activity, potently and completely abolishing immobility in the forced swim test (FST) with extended duration of action.
Methods: We investigated the antidepressant-like activity of NLX-101 using the rat chronic mild stress (CMS) model of depression, considered to have a higher translational potential than the FST, as it possesses construct, face and predictive validity. The effects of CMS and repeated NLX-101 treatment were tested using sucrose consumption (a measure of anhedonia), novel object recognition (NOR; a measure of working memory) and elevated plus maze (EPM; a measure of anxiety) tests.
Results: NLX-101 reversed the CMS-induced decrease of sucrose intake on day 1 of testing, with full reversal observed at the dose of 0.16 mg/kg and a less pronounced but still significant effect at 0.04 mg/kg, both given twice a day intraperitoneally. The effects of NLX-101 were maintained over the 2 week treatment period and persisted for four weeks following cessation of treatment. In the NOR test, both doses of NLX-101 rescued the deficit in discrimination index caused by CMS, without any effect on locomotor activity. However, NLX-101 had no effect on the reduction of open-arms entries produced by CMS in the EPM model. In control, non-stressed rats, NLX-101 produced non-significant effects in all three models.
Conclusions: NLX-101 displayed efficacious activity in the CMS test, with more rapid (1 day) antidepressant-like effects than pharmacological compounds tested previously under the same experimental conditions. These observations suggest that biased agonist targeting of cortical 5-HT1A receptors constitutes a promising strategy to achieve rapid-acting and sustained antidepressant effects.
Keywords: 5-HT1A receptors; Serotonin; biased agonist; chronic mild stress; depression; rat.