Effects of Desipramine Treatment on Stress-Induced up-Regulation of Norepinephrine Transporter Expression in Rat Brains

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Rationale Many studies demonstrate down-regulation of the norepinephrine transporter (NET) by desipramine (DMI) in vitro and in stress-naive rats. Little is known regarding regulation of the NET in stressed animals.

Objective The present study was designed to investigate effects of DMI on the expression of NET and protein kinases in the stress rat.

Methods Adult Fischer 344 rats were subjected to chronic social defeat (CSD) for 4 weeks. DMI (10 mg/kg, intraperitoneal (i.p.)) was administered concurrently with CSD or 1 or 2 weeks after cessation of CSD. Sucrose consumption, NET expression, and protein kinases were measured.

Results CSD significantly increased messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels of NET in the locus coeruleus, as well as NET protein levels in the hippocampus, frontal cortex, and amygdala. These effects were nearly abolished when DMI was administered concurrently with CSD. CSD-induced upregulation of NET expression in the locus coeruleus, hippocampus, and amygdala lasted at least 2 weeks after cessation of CSD, an effect that was significantly attenuated by 1 or 2 weeks of DMI treatment starting from cessation of the CSD. Concurrent administration of DMI with CSD did not markedly interfere with CSD-induced decreases in protein levels of protein kinases A and C in these brain regions, but it did reverse the CSD-induced reduction in phosphorylated cAMP response element-binding (pCREB) protein levels in most brain regions.

Conclusion These findings suggest that NET regulation by DMI occurs in both stressed and behaviorally naive rats, and DMI-induced changes in pCREB may be involved.