PMID: 18940236

Engin E, Stellbrink J, Treit D, Dickson CT

Neuroscience 2008 Dec;157(3):666-76


Somatostatin (SST) is a cyclic polypeptide that inhibits the release of a variety of regulatory hormones (e.g. growth hormone, insulin, glucagon, thyrotropin). Moreover, SST is widely distributed within the CNS, acting both as a neurotransmitter and as a neuromodulator of other neurotransmitter systems. However, despite its extensive expression in limbic areas, and its co-localization with GABA, a neurotransmitter previously implicated in emotion, the effects of SST on anxiety and depression have not been investigated. By performing intraventricular infusions in rats we demonstrate, for the first time, that SST has anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects in the elevated plus-maze and forced swim test, respectively. In addition, by performing local field potential recordings of hippocampal theta activity evoked by reticular stimulation in urethane-anesthetized rats we also show that SST application suppresses the frequency of theta in a similar fashion to diazepam. This neurophysiological signature, common to all classes of anxiolytic drugs (i.e. benzodiazepines, selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitors, 5-HT1A agonists) provides strong converging evidence for the anxiolytic-like characteristics of SST. Our pharmacological antagonism experiments with bicuculline further suggest that the anxiolytic effect of SST may be attributable to the interaction of SST with GABA, whereas the antidepressant-like effect of SST may be GABA-independent. In addition to contributing to the current understanding of the role of neuropeptides in mood and emotion, these findings support a clinical role for SST (or its analogues) in the treatment of anxiety and depression.