Emerging evidence indicates that NLRP3 inflammasome-induced inflammation plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of depression. Thus, inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome activation may offer a therapeutic benefit in the treatment of depression. Metformin has been shown to have potential anti-inflammatory activity, but the underlying mechanisms remain obscure. We used a chronic mild stress model of depression and cultured primary macrophage to investigate the effects of metformin on depression and its underlying mechanisms. We demonstrated that metformin alleviated depressive-like behaviors in the chronic mild stress-induced anhedonia model of depression. We further found that metformin significantly suppressed NLRP3 inflammasome activation, subsequent caspase-1 cleavage, and interleukin-1β secretion in both peripheral macrophages and central hippocampus. Our findings reveal that metformin confers an antidepressant effect partly through inhibition of peripheral and central NLRP3 inflammasome activation. In light of metformin favorable properties, it should be evaluated in the treatment of depression and related neurologic disorders characterized by NLRP3 inflammasome activation.
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