Photoperiod alters affective behaviors and brain neuroplasticity in several mammalian species. We addressed whether neurogenesis and signaling pathways of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), a key modulator of neuroplasticity, are regulated by photoperiod in C57BL/6 J mice, a putative model of seasonal affective disorder. We also examined the effects of photoperiod on plasma metabolomic profiles in relation to depression-like behavior to understand a possible linkage between peripheral metabolism and behavior. Mice that were maintained under long-day conditions (LD) exhibited a higher number of 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine-positive cells and higher levels of astrocyte marker in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus compared to that of mice under short-day conditions (SD). Plasma IGF-I levels and levels/expression of IGF-I signaling molecules in the hippocampus (Brn-4, NeuroD1, and phospho-Akt) involved in neuronal proliferation and differentiation were higher in the mice under LD. Metabolome analysis using plasma of the mice under LD and SD identified several metabolites that were highly correlated with immobility in the forced swim test, a depression-like behavior. Negative correlations with behavior occurred in the levels of 23 metabolites, including metabolites related to neurogenesis and antidepressant-like effects of exercise, metabolites in the biosynthesis of arginine, and the occurrence of branched chain amino acids. Three metabolites had positive correlations with the behavior, including guanidinosuccinic acid, a neurotoxin. Taken together, photoperiodic responses of neurogenesis and neuro-glial organization in the hippocampus may be involved in photoperiodic alteration of depression-like behavior, mediated through multiple pathways, including IGF-I and peripheral metabolites.
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