Essential Oils and Their Constituents: An Alternative Source for Novel Antidepressants.
L-Menthone (MTN) is a Chinese old remedy extracted from the genus Mentha. It has been widely used as a cooling agent and a counterirritant for pain relief, although its antidepressant-like effects have not yet been reported. The present study was designed to investigate whether MTN confers an antidepressant-like effect in mice exposed to unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) and to explore its potential mechanisms. The effects of MTN on mouse behavioral changes were investigated in our study. We determined the levels of the nucleotide binding, oligomerization domain-like receptor family pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome, inflammatory cytokines and neurotransmitters in the hippocampus of mice. Behavioral tests, including the sucrose preference test (SPT), open field test (OFT), forced swimming test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST) revealed that MTN (15 and 30mg/kg) treatments for 3weeks alleviated the depression symptoms of UCMS in mice. Mice receiving MTN treatments exhibited reduced levels of NLRP3 and caspase-1. Moreover, MTN treatments reversed the UCMS-induced alterations in the concentrations of neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE) and serotonin (5-HT) and inhibited the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (PIC) interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in the hippocampus of mice. Taken together, our findings suggested that MTN may play a potential antidepressant-like role in the UCMS mouse model by regulating the NLRP3 inflammasome and mediating inflammatory cytokines and central neurotransmitters, which together provide insight towards the development of novel therapeutic treatments for depression.