Depression is a chronic and debilitating condition with a significant degree of relapse and treatment resistance that could stem, at least in part, from disturbances of neuroplasticity. This has led to an increased focus on treatment strategies that target brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), synaptic plasticity and adult neurogenesis. In the current study we aimed to assess whether erythropoietin (EPO) would have antidepressant-like effects given its already established pro-trophic actions. In particular, we assessed whether EPO would diminish the deleterious effects of a social stressor in mice. Indeed, EPO induced anxiolytic and antidepressant-like responses in a forced swim test, open field, elevated-plus maze, and a novelty test, and appeared to blunt some of the negative behavioural effects of a social stressor. Furthermore, EPO promoted adult hippocampal neurogenesis, an important feature of effective antidepressants. Finally, a separate study using the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin revealed that antagonizing this pathway prevented the impact of EPO upon forced swim performance. These data are consistent with previous findings showing that the mTOR pathway and its neurogenic and synaptogenic effects might mediate the behavioral consequences of antidepressant agents. Our findings further highlight EPO as a possible adjunct treatment for affective disorders, as well as other stressor associated disorders of impaired neuroplasticity.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Osborn, M. (Meagan), Rustom, N. (Nazneen), Clarke, M. (Melanie), Litteljohn, D. (Darcy), Rudyk, C. (Chris), Anisman, H, & Hayley, S. (2013). Antidepressant-Like Effects of Erythropoietin: A Focus on Behavioural and Hippocampal Processes. PLoS ONE, 8(9). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072813