Immunomodulatory effect of sertraline in a rat model of rheumatoid arthritis

Ehud Baharav, Meytal Bar, Michal Taler, Irit Gil-Ad, Leon Karp, Abraham Weinberger, Avraham Weizman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Previous studies suggest that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) modulate immune system functionality. SSRIs are the preferred treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD). A high rate of MDD is observed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate immunological effects of SSRIs in a rat model of RA. Methods: Adjuvant arthritis was induced in 8-week-old Lewis rats; in the first set of experiments following the induction, 15.3 or 30.6 mg/kg of sertraline was daily injected into the ankle joint of the left rear leg. Clinical disease activity was evaluated and the findings compared with the 3 untreated legs and with control groups given methotrexate (MTX) or vehicle only at the same site. In a second set of experiments, the effect of 5, 25 and 50 mg/kg daily oral sertraline was evaluated in the same rat model. Splenocyte viability and inflammatory mediators were evaluated. Results: The sertraline-treated rats showed a significant reduction in clinical arthritis compared to controls, at all doses given, accompanied by a significant increase in interleukin 10 and a decrease in tumor necrosis factor-α levels and cycloxygenase-2 production, without lymphotoxicity. There was no significant difference from MTX, the first-line treatment for RA patients. Oral sertraline had a significant anti-inflammatory effect at all doses. There was no treatment × time effect. Conclusion: The beneficial effects of sertraline in this rat model of arthritis have clinical implications for its use in humans. Large-scale clinical efficacy trials are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-318
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjuvant arthritis
  • Cytokines
  • Depression
  • Immunomodulation
  • Inflammation
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sertraline


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