Unraveling the molecular basis of cannabidiolic acid methyl Ester's anti-depressive effects in a rat model of treatment-resistant depression

D. Hen-Shoval, T. Indig-Naimer, L. Moshe, N. M. Kogan, H. Zaidan, I. Gaisler-Salomon, E. Okun, R. Mechoulam, G. Shoval, G. Zalsman, A. Weller

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Major depressive disorder (MDD) stands as a significant cause of disability globally. Cannabidiolic Acid-Methyl Ester (CBDA-ME) (EPM-301, HU-580), a derivative of Cannabidiol, demonstrates immediate antidepressant-like effects, yet it has undergone only minimal evaluation in psychopharmacology. Our goal was to investigate the behavioral and potential molecular mechanisms associated with the chronic oral administration of this compound in the Wistar Kyoto (WKY) genetic model of treatment-resistant depression. Male WKY rats were subjected to behavioral assessments before and after receiving chronic (14-day) oral doses of CBDA-ME (0.5 mg/kg), 15 mg/kg of imipramine or vehicle. At the end of the study, plasma corticosterone levels and mRNA expression of various genes in the medial Prefrontal Cortex and Hippocampus were measured. Behavioral outcomes from CBDA-ME treatment indicated an antidepressant-like effect similar to imipramine, as oral ingestion reduced immobility and increased swimming duration in the Forced Swim Test. Neither treatment influenced locomotion in the Open Field Test nor preference in the Saccharin Preference Test. The behavioral impact in WKY rats coincided with reduced corticosterone serum levels, upregulated mRNA expression of Cannabinoid receptor 1, Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase, and Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Receptor 1, alongside downregulation of the Serotonin Transporter in the hippocampus. Additionally, there was an upregulation of CB1 mRNA expression and downregulation of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in the mPFC. These findings contribute to our limited understanding of the antidepressant effects of CBDA-ME and shed light on its potential psychopharmacological mechanisms. This discovery opens up possibilities for utilizing cannabinoids in the treatment of major depressive disorder and related conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-59
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Jul 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cannabidiolic acid methyl ester
  • Endocannabinoid system
  • Genetic animal models of depression
  • Major depression disorder
  • Molecular mechanisms
  • Wistar–Kyoto (WKY)


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