[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Major depression brings about a heavy socio-economic burden worldwide due to its high prevalence and the low efficacy of antidepressant drugs, mostly inhibiting the serotonin transporter (SERT). As a result, ~80% of patients show recurrent or chronic depression, resulting in a poor quality of life and increased suicide risk. RNA interference (RNAi) strategies have been preliminarily used to evoke antidepressant-like responses in experimental animals. However, the main limitation for the medical use of RNAi is the extreme difficulty to deliver oligonucleotides to selected neurons/systems in the mammalian brain. Here we show that the intranasal administration of a sertraline-conjugated small interfering RNA (C-SERT-siRNA) silenced SERT expression/function and evoked fast antidepressant-like responses in mice. After crossing the permeable olfactory epithelium, the sertraline-conjugated-siRNA was internalized and transported to serotonin cell bodies by deep Rab-7-associated endomembrane vesicles. Seven-day C-SERT-siRNA evoked similar or more marked responses than 28-day fluoxetine treatment. Hence, C-SERT-siRNA (i) downregulated 5-HT1A-autoreceptors and facilitated forebrain serotonin neurotransmission, (ii) accelerated the proliferation of neuronal precursors and (iii) increased hippocampal complexity and plasticity. Further, short-term C-SERT-siRNA reversed depressive-like behaviors in corticosterone-treated mice. The present results show the feasibility of evoking antidepressant-like responses by selectively targeting neuronal populations with appropriate siRNA strategies, opening a way for further translational studies.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 23 June 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.80.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Depression is a major health problem worldwide. Most prescribed anti-depressants, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) show limited efficacy and delayed onset of action, partly due to the activation of somatodendritic 5-HT(1A)-autoreceptors by the excess extracellular serotonin (5-HT) produced by SSRI in the raphe nuclei. Likewise, 5-HT(1A) receptor (5-HT(1A)R) gene polymorphisms leading to high 5-HT(1A)-autoreceptor expression increase depression susceptibility and decrease treatment response. In this study, we report on a new treatment strategy based on the administration of small-interfering RNA (siRNA) to acutely suppress 5-HT(1A)-autoreceptor-mediated negative feedback mechanisms. We developed a conjugated siRNA (C-1A-siRNA) by covalently binding siRNA targeting 5-HT(1A) receptor mRNA with the SSRI sertraline in order to concentrate it in serotonin axons, rich in serotonin transporter (SERT) sites. The intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) infusion of C-1A-siRNA to mice resulted in its selective accumulation in serotonin neurons. This evoked marked anti-depressant-like effects in the forced swim and tail suspension tests, but did not affect anxiety-like behaviors in the elevated plus-maze. In parallel, C-1A-siRNA administration markedly decreased 5-HT(1A)-autoreceptor expression and suppressed 8-OH-DPAT-induced hypothermia (a pre-synaptic 5-HT(1A)R effect in mice) without affecting post-synaptic 5-HT(1A)R expression in hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Moreover, i.c.v. C-1A-siRNA infusion augmented the increase in extracellular serotonin evoked by fluoxetine in prefrontal cortex to the level seen in 5-HT(1A)R knockout mice. Interestingly, intranasal C-1A-siRNA administration produced the same effects, thus opening the way to the therapeutic use of C-1A-siRNA. Hence, C-1A-siRNA represents a new approach to treat mood disorders as monotherapy or in combination with SSRI.