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Quercetin regulates depression-like behavior in CUMS rat models via TLR4/NF-κB signaling


1 College of Basic Medicine, Hebei University of Chinese Medicine, Shijiazhuang, 050200, China
2 Hebei Key Laboratory of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine for Lung Disease Research, Shijiazhuang, 050091, China

* Corresponding Author: SHAOXIAN WANG. Email: email

BIOCELL 2024, 48(5), 731-744.


Background: Depression is becoming increasingly prevalent around the world, imposing a substantial burden on individuals, families, as well as society. Quercetin is known to be highly effective in treating depression. However, additional research is needed to dissect the mechanisms of its anti-depressive effects. Methods: For this study, Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were randomized into the control, model, quercetin, or fluoxetine group. The latter three groups were exposed to chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) for 42 d. The first two groups received saline solution daily via oral gavage. Meanwhile, the quercetin group was orally administered a quercetin suspension (52.08 mg/kg) every day, while the fluoxetine group was orally administered a fluoxetine solution (2.08 mg/kg). Here, fluoxetine served as the positive control drug to compare the therapeutic effects of quercetin. The experimental period was 6 weeks. Depressive behaviors in rats were assessed through various physiological and behavioral measures. Additionally, pathological changes in hippocampal tissues were examined using Nissl staining. Serum cytokines were detected using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and immunohistochemistry was employed to quantify the levels and integral optical density (IOD) values of ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule-1 (Iba-1) expression in the brain. Real-time fluorescence quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) was utilized to evaluate the mRNA levels of inflammatory indicators as well as toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), and nuclear factor-κappa B P65 (NF-κB P65) in hippocampus. Western blot (WB) technique was employed to observe the protein levels of TLR4, NF-κB P65, and phospho-NF-κB P65 (p-NF-κB P65). Results: After 42 d of exposure to CUMS, rats exhibited a slow increase in body weight, a reduction in food intake, an abnormal preference for sugar water, and aberrant open-field behaviors. Pathological analysis revealed the disintegration, rupture, interruption, and disorganization of hippocampal neuronal cells after CUMS exposure, along with a decrease in Nissl bodies in the CA1 region. This was accompanied by the elevated expression of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the serum and the upregulation of IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α mRNA expression in the hippocampus. Increases in Iba-1-positive cells and the IOD values of Iba-1 were detected in hippocampal microglia. Furthermore, TLR4 and NF-κB P65 mRNA and protein levels were upregulated in hippocampal tissues. Quercetin, an antidepressant, could alleviate depression-like symptoms in rats and downregulate inflammatory factors associated with the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway in hippocampal microglia, and its therapeutic effect was comparable to fluoxetine. Conclusion: In rat models of CUMS, quercetin may act as an antidepressant by inhibiting inflammation in hippocampal microglia via TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway. These results offer experimental and theoretical support for applying quercetin in the clinical management of depression.


Cite This Article

APA Style
LI, Y., ZHANG, B., CUI, Z., FAN, P., WANG, S. (2024). Quercetin regulates depression-like behavior in CUMS rat models via TLR4/NF-κB signaling. BIOCELL, 48(5), 731-744.
Vancouver Style
LI Y, ZHANG B, CUI Z, FAN P, WANG S. Quercetin regulates depression-like behavior in CUMS rat models via TLR4/NF-κB signaling. BIOCELL . 2024;48(5):731-744
IEEE Style
Y. LI, B. ZHANG, Z. CUI, P. FAN, and S. WANG "Quercetin regulates depression-like behavior in CUMS rat models via TLR4/NF-κB signaling," BIOCELL , vol. 48, no. 5, pp. 731-744. 2024.

cc This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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