(+)-Catharanthine and (-)-18-methoxycoronaridine induce antidepressant-like activity in mice by differently recruiting serotonergic and norepinephrinergic neurotransmission

Hugo R. Arias, Philippe De Deurwaerdère, Ali El-Kasaby, Giuseppe Di Giovanni, Sanung Eom, Junho H. Lee, Michael Freissmuth, Abdeslam Chagraoui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The antidepressant-like activity of (+)-catharanthine and (-)-18-methoxycoronaridine [(-)-18-MC] was studied in male and female mice using forced swim (FST) and tail suspension tests (TST). The underlying molecular mechanism was assessed by electrophysiological, radioligand, and functional experiments. The FST results showed that acute administration (40 mg/kg) of (+)-catharanthine or (-)-18-MC induces similar antidepressant-like activity in male and female mice at 1 h and 24 h, whereas the TST results showed a lower effect for (-)-18-MC at 24 h. Repeated treatment at lower dose (20 mg/kg) augmented the efficacy of both congeners. The FST results showed that (-)-18-MC reduces immobility and increases swimming times without changing climbing behavior, whereas (+)-catharanthine reduces immobility time, increases swimming times more markedly, and increases climbing behavior. To investigate the contribution of the serotonin and norepinephrine transporters in the antidepressant effects of (+)-catharanthine and (-)-18-MC, we conducted in vitro radioligand and functional studies. Results obtained demonstrated that (+)-catharanthine inhibits norepinephrine transporter with higher potency/affinity than that for (-)-18-MC, whereas both congeners inhibit serotonin transporter with similar potency/affinity. Moreover, whereas no congener activated/inhibited/potentiated the function of serotonin receptor 3A or serotonin receptor 3AB, both increased serotonin receptor 3A receptor desensitization. Depletion of serotonin decreased the antidepressant-like activity of both congeners, whereas norepinephrine depletion only decreased (+)-catharanthine's activity. Our study shows that coronaridine congeners induce antidepressant-like activity in a dose- and time-dependent, and sex-independent, manner. The antidepressant-like property of both compounds involves serotonin transporter inhibition, without directly activating/inhibiting serotonin receptors 3, while (+)-catharanthine also mobilizes norepinephrinergic neurotransmission.

Original languageEnglish
Article number175454
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Antidepressant activity
  • Coronaridine congeners
  • Mice
  • Monoamine transporters
  • Serotonin receptor 3


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