Behavioural profiles and cellular mechanisms of retinoid-induced depression

  • Simon Trent

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Vitamin A and its derivatives, known as retinoids, are involved in a number of functions in the developing and adult brain (Lane et al., 2005). Roaccutane (13-cis-retinoic acid, 13-cis-RA) is a synthetic retinoid used for the treatment of severe cystic acne, although its use has been controversially associated with adverse psychiatric events including depression. In this thesis, the presence of retinoid receptors in the rat hippocampus was verified and a similar profile of expression was observed in the rat raphe nuclei for the first time. The expression of retinoid receptors in brain regions that are implicitly associated with depression pathology provides proof of concept for retinoids to influence depressive behaviour. The ability of 13-cis-RA treatment to induce a pro-depressive profile in animal models of depression-related behaviour was tested. In the resident-intruder paradigm, adult rats treated for 7 or 14 days with 13-cis-RA (1mg/kg, i.p.) showed reduced aggressive behaviour, with a concomitant increase in flight submit and flight escape behaviours, compared with vehicle-treated controls. These findings are indicative of increased depression-related behaviour. However, chronic treatment did not alter depression-related behaviour in the forced swim test and sucrose consumption anhedonia paradigms The molecular mechanisms mediating 13-cis-RA-induced depression were investigated by examining monoaminergic gene expression, protein levels and neurotransmitter levels in rat brain tissue and plasma and an in vitro model. The majority of serotonergic components (SERT, 5-HT1AR, 5-HT1BR and MAOA) were not altered by chronic 13-cis-RA treatment, with the possible exception of TPH2 gene/protein expression and increased 5-HT levels in platelets. In fact, the expression of D2 dopamine receptor was significantly elevated in the RN46A-B14 cell line (10μM 13-cis-RA, 48 h) and was similarly elevated at the protein level in the juvenile rat hippocampus (1mg/kg/day, i.p., 6 weeks), suggesting dopaminergic pathways may be of importance. There was also a trend in the data to suggest that 13-cis-RA-treated juvenile rats may be more susceptible the molecular alterations than corresponding adult rats. xii
Date of Award1 Sept 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSarah Bailey (Supervisor)


  • serotonin
  • 13-cis-ra
  • roaccutane
  • retinoids
  • d2dr
  • resident-intruder paradigm
  • depression
  • tph2

Cite this