Impaired myelin ultrastructure is reversed by citalopram treatment in a mouse model for major depressive disorder

Ifat Israel-Elgali, Hope Pan, Keren Oved, Nir Pillar, Gilad Levy, Boaz Barak, Ana Carneiro, David Gurwitz*, Noam Shomron*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common and widespread mental disorder. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first-line treatment for MDD. The relation between the inhibition of serotonin reuptake in the central nervous system and remission from MDD remains controversial, as reuptake inhibition occurs rapidly, but remission from MDD takes weeks to months. Myelination-related deficits and white matter abnormalities were shown to be involved in psychiatric disorders such as MDD. This may explain the delay in remission following SSRI administration. The raphe nuclei (RN), located in the brain stem, consist of clusters of serotonergic (5-HT) neurons that project to almost all regions of the brain. Thus, the RN are an intriguing area for research of the potential effect of SSRI on myelination, and their involvement in MDD. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate many biological features that might be altered by antidepressants. Two cohorts of chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) mouse model for depression underwent behavioral tests for evaluating stress, anxiety, and depression levels. Following application of the CUS protocol and treatment with the SSRI, citalopram, 48 mice of the second cohort were tested via magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging for differences in brain white matter tracts. RN and superior colliculus were excised from both cohorts and measured for changes in miRNAs, mRNA, and protein levels of candidate genes. Using MRI-DTI scans we found lower fractional anisotropy and axial diffusivity in brains of stressed mice. Moreover, both miR-30b-5p and miR-101a-3p were found to be downregulated in the RN following CUS, and upregulated following CUS and citalopram treatment. The direct binding of these miRNAs to Qki, and the subsequent effects on mRNA and protein levels of myelin basic protein (Mbp), indicated involvement of these miRNAs in myelination ultrastructure processes in the RN, in response to CUS followed by SSRI treatment. We suggest that SSRIs are implicated in repairing myelin deficits resulting from chronic stress that leads to depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-114
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Chronic unpredictable stress
  • Major depression disorder
  • Myelin
  • SSRI
  • microRNA


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