PloS one

Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation triggers melatonin secretion and is antidepressive in Zucker diabetic fatty rats.

PMID 25347185


Decreased circulating melatonin is implicated in depression. We recently found that Zucker diabetic fatty rats (ZDF, fa/fa) develop depression-like behaviors and that transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) is antidepressive in ZDF rats. Here we studied whether the ZDF rats could be used as a depression rodent model and whether the antidepressive effect of taVNS is mediated through modulation of melatonin secretion. Adult male ZDF and Zucker lean (ZL, fa/+) littermates were used. 30 min-taVNS procedures (2/15 Hz, 2 mA) were administered once daily under anesthesia for 34 consecutive days in pineal intact ZDF (n = 8) and ZL (n = 6) rats, as well as in pinealectomized ZDF rats (n = 8). Forced swimming test (FST) was used to determine depression-like behavior and ELISA to detect plasma melatonin concentration on day 35. We found that naïve ZDF rats had a longer immobility time in FST and that long-term (34 days) taVNS treatment ameliorated the depression-like behavior. In both pineal intact and pinealectomized ZDF rats, taVNS induced acute melatonin secretion, both during and after the taVNS session. A low melatonin level is related to the poor FST performance in ZDF rats (R = -0.544) in contrast to ZL rats (R = 0.247). In conclusion, our results show that ZDF rats are ideal candidates of innate depression and that taVNS is antidepressive through triggering melatonin secretion and increasing its production.

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Melatonin, United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Reference Standard