Depressive behavior in the forced swim test can be induced by TRPV1 receptor activity and is dependent on NMDA receptors

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Blocking, desensitizing, or knocking out transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) receptors decreases immobility in the forced swim test, a measure of depressive behavior. We questioned whether enhancing TRPV1 activity promotes immobility in a fashion that is prevented by antidepressants. To test this we activated heat-sensitive TRPV1 receptors in mice by water that is warmer than body temperature (41 C) or a low dose of resiniferatoxin (RTX). Water at 41 C elicited less immobility than cooler water (26 C), indicating that thermoregulatory sites do not contribute to immobility. Although a desensitizing regimen of RTX (3-5 injections of 0.1 mg/kg s.c.) decreased immobility during swims at 26 C, it did not during swims at 41 C. In contrast, low dose of RTX (0.02 mg/kg s.c.) enhanced immobility, but only during swims at 41 C. Thus, activation of TRPV1 receptors, endogenously or exogenously, enhances immobility and these sites are activated by cold rather than warmth. Two distinct types of antidepressants, amitriptyline (10 mg/kg i.p.) and ketamine (50 mg/kg i.p.), each inhibited the increase in immobility induced by the low dose of RTX, verifying its mediation by TRPV1 sites. When desensitization was limited to central populations using intrathecal injections of RTX (0.25 μg/kg i.t.), immobility was attenuated at both temperatures and the increase in immobility produced by the low dose of RTX was inhibited. This demonstrates a role for central TRPV1 receptors in depressive behavior, activated by conditions (cold stress) distinct from those that activate TRPV1 receptors along thermosensory afferents (heat).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacological Research
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the NIH by Award #AR056902 to A.A.L.

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Depression
  • Desensitization
  • Forced swim test
  • RTX
  • TRPV1


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