The effect of antidepressants is the culmination of a series of molecular actions occurring in the brain. These events are thought to lead to changes in the expression level of numerous, but as yet unknown genes that result in different cellular functions. In our present study we addressed this issue by establishing gene expression profiles of the rat brain after treatment with imipramine and citalopram at therapeutic doses. After 96 h and 4 wk, fronto-temporal cortices from controls and each treated strain were prepared and total RNA was isolated, and assessed using a cDNA microarray system containing 3200 clones. The expression of 6 genes was decreased and 8 were over-expressed by imipramine, whereas 27 were repressed and 7 were up-regulated by citalopram. Members of signal transduction (e.g. phosphatidylinositol transfer protein), structural elements (e.g. tubulin, fibronectin), factors related to protein metabolism in general (e.g. proteasomal subunits, ubiquitin-like proteins, polyadenylation sites), components involved in cell survival (e.g. midkine, stress-inducible protein), and determinants of membrane conductance and ion transport (e.g. vacuolar H+-ATPase), and basics of nuclear functions (e.g. translin, basal transcription factor 3), were some of the genes with altered expression. These data demonstrate that antidepressants interfere with the expression of a large array of genes involved in signalling, survival and protein metabolism. Our results demonstrate for the first time that antidepressants specifically regulate neuronal plasticity through induction of a highly specific transcriptional programme in brain cells.
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