Scientific reports

Blocking of carnitine palmitoyl transferase 1 potently reduces stress-induced depression in rat highlighting a pivotal role of lipid metabolism.

PMID 28526869


Major depressive disorder is a complex and common mental disease, for which the pathology has not been elucidated. The purpose of this study is to provide knowledge about the importance of mitochondrial dysfunction, dysregulated lipid metabolism and inflammation. Mitochondrial carnitine palmitoyl transferase 1a (CPT1a) is a key molecule involved in lipid metabolism and mutations in CPT1a causing reduced function is hypothesized to have a protective role in the development of depression. Moreover, CPT1a is found to be upregulated in suicide patients with history of depression. Therefore, we hypothesized that inhibition of CPT1a activity can be developed as an innovative treatment strategy for depression. Stress exposure combined with different pharmacological treatment regimens; Etomoxir, CPT1 blocker, and Escitalopram, a favoured antidepressant drug, was applied in state-of-the-art chronic mild stress model. Etomoxir treatment induced statistical significant reduction of anhedonic behavior compared to vehicle treatment (p < 0.0001) and reversed depression-like phenotype in 90% of the rats (p = 0.0007), whereas Escitalopram only proved 57% efficacy. Moreover, Etomoxir revealed downregulation of interferon-γ, interleukin-17α and tumor necrosis factor-α. This indicate that alteration in metabolism is pivotal in the pathogenesis of depression, since CPT1 blockage is highly efficient in treating anhedonia and inflammation, thereby opening up for a novel class of antidepressant medication.