Slavianka Moyanova 1 , Antonio De Fusco 1 , Ines Santolini 1 , Roberta Celli 1 , Domenico Bucci 1 , Federica Mastroiacovo 1 , Giuseppe Battaglia 1 , Ferdinando Nicoletti 1 , 2 , Jane Tchekalarova 3 , *
06 July 2018
Absence epilepsy and depression are comorbid disorders, but the molecular link between the two disorders is unknown. Here, we examined the role of the melatoninergic system in the pathophysiology of spike and wave discharges (SWDs) and depression-like behaviour in the Wistar Albino Glaxo from Rijswijk (WAG/Rij) rat model of absence epilepsy. In WAG/Rij rats, SWD incidence was higher during the dark period of the light-dark cycle, in agreement with previous findings. However, neither pinealectomy nor melatonin administration had any effect on SWD incidence, suggesting that the melatoninergic system was not involved in the pathophysiology of absence-like seizures. Endogenous melatonin levels were lower in the hippocampus of WAG/Rij rats as compared to non-epileptic control rats, and this was associated with higher levels of melatonin receptors in the hippocampus, but not in the thalamus. In line with the reduced melatonin levels, cell density was lower in the hippocampus of WAG/Rij rats and was further reduced by pinealectomy. As expected, WAG/Rij rats showed an increased depression-like behaviour in the sucrose preference and forced swim tests, as compared to non-epileptic controls. Pinealectomy abolished the difference between the two strains of rats by enhancing depression-like behaviour in non-epileptic controls. Melatonin replacement displayed a significant antidepressant-like effect in both WAG/Rij and control rats. These findings suggest that a defect of hippocampal melatoninergic system may be one of the mechanisms underlying the depression-like phenotype in WAG/Rij rats and that activation of melatonin receptors might represent a valuable strategy in the treatment of depression associated with absence epilepsy.