3,3′-Diindolylmethane and 1,4-dihydroxy-2-naphthoic acid prevent chronic mild stress induced depressive-like behaviors in female mice

Caitlin A. Madison, Jacob Kuempel, Georgia Lee Albrecht, Lauren Hillbrick, Arul Jayaraman, Stephen Safe, Robert S. Chapkin, Shoshana Eitan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Current pharmaceutical treatments for depression are sometimes ineffective and may have unwanted side effects that interfere with patient compliance. This study examined the potential antidepressant-like effects of dietary- and microbial-derived aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) ligands, 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) and 1,4-dihydroxy-2-naphthoic acid (1,4-DHNA). Methods: Female C57BL/6 mice were subjected to unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) or were unstressed. For three weeks prior to UCMS mice were fed daily with vehicle or 20 mg/kg DIM, 1,4-DHNA or AhR-inactive isomer 3,7-DHNA; another group was subjected to two weeks UCMS before ligand administration began. Mice were examined for anhedonia-like behavior as measured by the sucrose preference test. Additionally, anxiety levels of the mice were examined before UCMS and ligand administration began and at the end in the open field, light/dark, elevated plus maze, novelty-induced hypophagia, and marble burying tests. At the end of the experiment they were also examined in the Morris water maze (MWM) task. Results: Both DIM and 1,4-DHNA, but not 3,7-DHNA, successfully prevented and reversed UCMS-induced anhedonia-like behavior. Furthermore, both DIM and DHNA had little to no effect on anxiety levels and did not induce spatial learning deficits. Limitations: Additional studies are required to determine to what degree the antidepressant-like effects of DIM and 1,4-DHNA can be attributed to their activities as AhR ligands. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that dietary and microbial-derived AhR ligands may have clinical applications as potential antidepressants. Future studies are necessary to elucidate the role of AhR in depression-like states and the underlying mechanisms of action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-210
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jul 15 2022


  • 1,4-Dihydroxy-2-naphthoic acid (1,4-DHNA)
  • 3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM)
  • 3,7-Dihydroxy-2-naphthoic acid (3,7-DHNA)
  • Anxiety
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)
  • Depression
  • Spatial learning
  • Stress, Psychological/complications
  • Humans
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Naphthols
  • Anhedonia
  • Antidepressive Agents/pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Indoles
  • Disease Models, Animal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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