Escitalopram Ameliorates Cognitive Impairment in D-Galactose-Injected Ovariectomized Rats: Modulation of JNK, GSK-3β, and ERK Signalling Pathways

Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 11;9(1):10056. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-46558-1.


Though selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to increase cognitive performance in some studies on patients and animal models of Alzheimer's disease (AD), other studies have reported contradictory results, and the mechanism of action has not been fully described. This study aimed to examine the effect of escitalopram, an SSRI, in an experimental model of AD and to determine the involved intracellular signalling pathways. Ovariectomized rats were administered D-galactose (150 mg/kg/day, i.p) over ten weeks to induce AD. Treatment with escitalopram (10 mg/kg/day, p.o) for four weeks, starting from the 7th week of D-galactose injection, enhanced memory performance and attenuated associated histopathological changes. Escitalopram reduced hippocampal amyloid β 42, β-secretase, and p-tau, while increasing α-secretase levels. Furthermore, it decreased tumor necrosis factor-α, nuclear factor-kappa B p65, and NADPH oxidase, while enhancing brain-derived neurotrophic factor, phospho-cAMP response element binding protein, and synaptophysin levels. Moreover, escitalopram diminished the protein expression of the phosphorylated forms of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/c-Jun, while increasing those of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), protein kinase B (Akt), glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and its upstream kinases MEK and Raf-1. In conclusion, escitalopram ameliorated D-galactose/ovariectomy-induced AD-like features through modulation of PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β, Raf-1/MEK/ERK, and JNK/c-Jun pathways.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use*
  • Citalopram / therapeutic use*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Galactose / administration & dosage
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4 / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Ovariectomy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Citalopram
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4
  • Galactose