Sex-dependent differences in the stress mitigating and antidepressant effects of selective aryl hydrocarbon receptor modulators

Caitlin A. Madison, Roanna A. Debler, Nathan I. Vardeleon, Lauren Hillbrick, Arul Jayaraman, Stephen Safe, Robert S. Chapkin, Shoshana Eitan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Our recent study demonstrated that selective aryl hydrocarbon receptor modulators (SAhRMs), such as 1,4-dihydroxy-2-napthoic acid (DHNA) act as antidepressants in female mice. Given that some effects of certain SAhRMs are known to also be mediated via estrogen receptor signaling, this study examined whether the effects of SAhRMs on mood, emotional state, and cognition are sex-dependent. Methods: C57BL/6N mice were fed with vehicle or 20 mg/kg DHNA for three weeks prior to four weeks of unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS). Mice were examined for depression-like behaviors (sucrose preference, forced swim test (FST), splash test, tape groom test), emotional state (open-field test, light/dark test, marble burying, novelty-induced hypophagia, elevated-plus maze), and cognition (object location recognition, novel object recognition, Morris water maze). Results: In females, UCMS decreased sucrose preference and increased FST immobility time; both effects were prevented by DHNA. In males, UCMS increased FST immobility time, and increased the latency to groom in the splash test. These effects were not mitigated by DHNA. However, in males, UCMS induced an increase in novelty-induced locomotion, an increase in the time spent in the light compartment in the L/D test, and an increase in the time spent with an object in a novel location. These effects were prevented by DHNA. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that DHNA has high potential to act as antidepressants in females. However, given classical interpretation, DHNA did not appear to act as an antidepressant in males. Nonetheless, our findings indicate that DHNA can mitigate stress effects and reactivity in males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Dec 15 2022


  • 1,4-Dihydroxy-2-naphthoic acid (DHNA)
  • Anxiety
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)
  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Sucrose
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Stress, Psychological/drug therapy
  • Male
  • Antidepressive Agents/pharmacology
  • Depression/drug therapy
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Disease Models, Animal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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