Cuscutae semen alleviates CUS-induced depression-like behaviors in mice via the gut microbiota-neuroinflammation axis
Introduction: Major depressive disorder is a mental disease with complex pathogenesis and treatment mechanisms involving changes in both the gut microbiota and neuroinflammation. Cuscutae Semen (CS), also known as Chinese Dodder seed, is a medicinal herb that exerts several pharmacological effects. These include neuroprotection, anti-neuroinflammation, the repair of synaptic damage, and the alleviation of oxidative stress. However, whether CuscutaeSemen exerts an antidepressant effect remains unknown. Methods: In this study, we evaluated the effect of CS on chronic unpredictable stress (CUS)-induced depression-like behaviors in mice by observing changes in several inflammatory markers, including proinflammatory cytokines, inflammatory proteins, and gliocyte activation. Meanwhile, changes in the gut microbiota were analyzed based on 16 S rRNA sequencing results. Moreover, the effect of CS on the synaptic ultrastructure was detected by transmission electron microscopy. Results: We found that the CS extract was rich in chlorogenic acid and hypericin. And CS relieved depression-like behaviors in mice exposed to CUS. Increased levels of cytokines (IL-1β and TNF-α) and inflammatory proteins (NLRP3, NF-κB, and COX-2) induced by CUS were reversed after CS administration. The number of astrocytes and microglia increased after CUS exposure, whereas they decreased after CS treatment. Meanwhile, CS could change the structure of the gut microbiota and increase the relative abundance of Lactobacillus. Moreover, there was a significant relationship between several Lactobacilli and indicators of depression-like behaviors and inflammation. There was a decrease in postsynaptic density after exposure to CUS, and this change was alleviated after CS treatme. Conclusion: This study found that CS treatment ameliorated CUS-induced depression-like behaviors and synaptic structural defects in mice via the gut microbiota-neuroinflammation axis. And chlorogenic acid and hypericin may be the main active substances for CS to exert antidepressant effects.