Sex differences in the incidence of depression and antidepressant treatment responses are well documented. Depression is twice as common in women as in men. Recent studies indicate that low levels of leptin, an adipocyte-derived hormone, are associated with increased symptoms of depression in women. Leptin has been shown to produce antidepressant-like effects in male rodents. In the present study, we examined sex differences and estrous cycle variations in antidepressantlike responses to leptin. Leptin administration significantly reduced immobility, a putative measure of behavioral despair, in the forced swim test in intact female mice in the proestrus phase but not in the diestrus phase of the estrous cycle. Moreover, leptin administration stimulated Akt phosphorylation in the hippocampus of female mice in proestrus but not in diestrus, in correlation with its differential behavioral effects in these two phases of the cycle. Leptin-induced behavioral responses and stimulation of hippocampal Akt phosphorylation in female mice were abolished by ovariectomy. By contrast, the antidepressant-like effect of leptin in male mice was not affected by gonadectomy (castration). Pretreatment with 17β-estradiol restored sensitivity to the effects of leptin on behavior and hippocampal Akt phosphorylation in ovariectomized female mice. These results suggest leptin regulates depression-like behavior and hippocampal Akt signaling in a sexspecific and estrous cycle-dependent manner.
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