The development of effective pharmacotherapy for major depression is important because it is such a widespread and debilitating mental disorder. Here, we have reviewed preclinical and clinical studies on tianeptine, an atypical antidepressant which ameliorates the adverse effects of stress on brain and memory. In animal studies, tianeptine has been shown to prevent stress-induced morphological sequelae in the hippocampus and amygdala, as well as to prevent stress from impairing synaptic plasticity in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Tianeptine also has memory-protective characteristics, as it blocks the adverse effects of stress on hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. We have further extended the findings on stress, memory and tianeptine here with two novel observations: 1) stress impairs spatial memory in adrenalectomized (ADX), thereby corticosterone-depleted, rats; and 2) the stress-induced impairment of memory in ADX rats is blocked by tianeptine. These findings are consistent with previous research which indicates that tianeptine produces anti-stress and memory-protective properties without altering the response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to stress. We conclude with a discussion of findings which indicate that tianeptine accomplishes its anti-stress effects by normalizing stress-induced increases in glutamate in the hippocampus and amygdala. This finding is potentially relevant to recent research which indicates that abnormalities in glutamatergic neurotransmission are involved in the pathogenesis of depression. Ultimately, tianeptines prevention of depression-induced sequelae in the brain is likely to be a primary factor in its effectiveness as a pharmacological treatment for depression.
Keywords: Depression, tianeptine, stress, memory, synaptic plasticity, animal models
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