Nicotine and other nicotinic agents are thought to regulate mood in human subjects and have antidepressant-like properties in animal models. Recent studies have demonstrated that blockade of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) including those containing the β2 subunit (β2*), results in antidepressant-like effects. Previous studies have shown that cytisine, a partial agonist at α4/β2* nAChRs, and a full agonist at α3/β4* and α7 nAChRs, has antidepressant-like properties in several rodent models of antidepressant efficacy; however, it is not clear whether more selective partial agonists will also be effective in these models. We tested cytisine and two derivatives, 5-bromo-cytisine (5-Br-Cyt) and 3-(pyridin-3′-yl)-cytisine (3-pyr-Cyt) for their ability to act as a partial agonist of different nAChR subtypes and to show antidepressant-like activity in C57/BL6 mice in the tail suspension, the forced-swim, and the novelty-suppressed feeding tests. 3-pyr-Cyt was a partial agonist with very low efficacy at α4/β2* nAChRS but had no agonist effects at other nAChRs normally targeted by cytisine, and it was effective in mouse models of antidepressant efficacy. Animals showed dose-dependent antidepressant-like effects in all three behavioral paradigms. 5-Br-Cyt was not effective in behavioral tests when administered peripherally, probably because of its inability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, because it efficiently reduced immobility in the tail suspension test when administered intraventricularly. These results suggest that novel nicotinic partial agonists may provide new possibilities for development of drugs to treat mood disorders
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