Antidepressant-Like Action of Single Facial Injection of Botulinum Neurotoxin A is Associated with Augmented 5-HT Levels and BDNF/ERK/CREB Pathways in Mouse Brain

Yang Li1 • Jing Liu1 • Xu Liu 1,2 • Cun-Jin Su 1,2,3 • Qi-Lin Zhang 1 • Zhi-Hong Wang 2 • Lei-Fang Cao 4 • Xue-Yan Guo1 • Ya Huang2 • Weifeng Luo 1 • Tong Liu 1,2,5

1 Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Neuropsychiatric Diseases and the Second Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, Suzhou 215004, China

2 Institute of Neuroscience, Soochow University, Suzhou 215021, China

3 Department of Pharmacy, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, Suzhou 215004, China

4 Department of Neurology, The Affiliated Hospital of Xiangnan College, Chenzhou, Hunan 423000, China

5 College of Life Sciences, Yanan University, Yanan 716000, China


The present study was designed to examine the therapeutic effects of Botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT/A) on depression-like behaviors in mice and to explore the potential mechanisms. These results revealed that a single facial injection of BoNT/A induced a rapid and prolonged improvement of depression-like behaviors in naïve and space-restriction-stressed (SRS) mice, reflected by a decreased duration of immobility in behavioral despair tests. BoNT/A significantly increased the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) levels in several brain regions, including the hippocampus and hypothalamus, in SRS mice. BoNT/A increased the expression of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunits NR1 and NR2B in the hippocampus, which were significantly decreased in SRS mice. Furthermore, BoNT/A significantly increased the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus, hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex, and amygdala, which were decreased in SRS mice. Finally, BoNT/A transiently increased the levels of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (p-ERK) and cAMP-response element binding protein (p-CREB), which were suppressed in the hippocampus of SRS mice. Collectively, these results demonstrated that BoNT/A treatment has anti-depressant-like activity in mice, and this is associated with increased 5-HT levels and the activation of BDNF/ERK/CREB pathways in the hippocampus, supporting further investigation of BoNT/A therapy in depression.


Botulinum neurotoxin; Depression; 5-HT; BDNF ; Hippocampus


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