A Citrus Based Sensory Functional Food Ingredient Induces Antidepressant-like Effects: Possible Involvement of an Interplay between the Olfactory and the Serotonergic Systems

Neuroscience. 2020 Dec 15:451:149-163. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2020.09.040. Epub 2020 Oct 9.


In the present study, we examined the neurobehavioral effects of a sensory functional food ingredient mainly based on Citrus sinensis extracts (D11399) using a battery of tests recapitulating various endophenotypes of depression such as anxiety in the open field (OF), the elevated plus-maze (EPM), and the novelty suppressed feeding (NSF), self-care in the splash test (ST), despair in the forced swimming task (FST) but also anhedonia in the sucrose preference test (SPT) in mice. A one-week oral administration of D11399 promoted anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like responses in naïve mice subjected to the NSF and FST. In a marked contrast, the administration of D11399 by oral gavage or the inhibition of olfaction by methimazole prevented such beneficial effects. We further investigated the neurobehavioral properties of a ten-week oral administration of D11399 in the corticosterone (CORT) mouse model of depression. Interestingly, D11399 also elicited anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects in various paradigms. To characterize the putative underpinning neurobiological mechanisms in CORT mice, we investigated whether cellular and molecular processes commonly associated with antidepressant responses such as monoaminergic neurotransmission and neuronal maturation in the hippocampus were impacted. Although D11399 did not modify the hippocampal extracellular levels of monoamines (i.e. serotonin and norepinephrine), it reversed the ability of CORT to decrease serotonin neurons firing rate in the dorsal raphe and neuronal maturation in the hippocampus. These findings suggest that the anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects of this sensory functional food ingredient are closely related with olfaction and likely a concomitant change in the activity of the central serotonergic system. Further experiments are warranted to precise the neuronal circuits linking sensorial and emotional modalities and identify innovative therapeutic strategies aimed to relieve depressive endophenotypes.

Keywords: antidepressant; behavior; hippocampus; monoamines; mood disorders; olfaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Anxiety
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Citrus*
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Food Ingredients*
  • Mice
  • Smell


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Food Ingredients